Recycle Your Own Paper!
In large scale paper recycling, the first step can be the most challenging: encouraging people to gather used paper instead of throwing it out! Once it’s collected, the paper is shredded and soaked in water or special fluids to break it down into fibers. Chemicals are sometimes added to remove ink particles from recycled magazines, newspapers and other printed materials. Next, the resulting “pulp” is cleaned, pressed to remove fluids, and then dried for reuse. Through recycling, new paper is created from paper that would otherwise have been wasted or dumped in a landfill! Every ton of paper recycled saves more than 3.3 cubic yards of landfill space.
Make Your Own Recycled Paper at Home
You can make your own recycled paper at home…but it is a good idea to have an adult help you, and to gather a few friends who can help gather used paper and help recycle too! The process is pretty easy, and you can learn more about recycling and watch a video of how to make paper online before you try it yourself. Here are the materials you will need:
Pulp Making Materials: blender, water, sink, small pieces of scrap paper, paper towels, large basin or bin big enough to contain the pulp mixture, rolling pin, sponge, newspaper or cardboard for drying.
Screen Frame: Use one made for a small window, or make this by attaching a wire mesh to a wooden frame with staples or wires.
Extra ingredients: Some people like to add dried herbs, leaves, flowers, seeds, thread, spices, or colored paper pieces to add interest to the final recycled paper
Step One: Collect paper scraps including colored papers, paper towels, cardboard, old greeting cards, envelopes, etc. Paper should not have been exposed to food, and should be clean. The colored papers will be useful in designs you create, so be sure to collect a few of these too.
Step Two: Tear all gathered scrap paper into small pieces then soak overnight in a vat of water (use twice as much scrap paper as you expect to end up in recycled paper). A tablespoon of cornstarch will accelerate the dissolving process, but is not required.
Step Three: With an adult, mix wet paper and water (ratio 2 parts water to 1 part paper) in a blender until it reaches the consistency of gravy.
Step Four: Place the screen in the large bin and then slowly pour the pulp onto the frame. You can add extra ingredients such as seeds or leaves at this point. Try to make sure the pulp is evenly spread on the screen, so the paper will have an even thickness.
Step Five: Press out the water that remains in the pulp on the screen using a rolling pin. Be sure to squeeze as much water out as possible, and use a sponge to absorb any water on the underside of the screen. Then carefully turn the screen over and tap the recycled paper onto a piece of newspaper or cardboard.
Step Six: Press the recycled paper flat, and let it dry for 24 hours. Then peel it off the newspaper and trim to the desired shape for notepaper or a card.
1. How did your recycled paper differ from the source scrap paper in texture and appearance?
2. Did you add extra materials to the pulp mixture? If so, did they have the effect in the paper that you intended? How?
3. Do you think this exercise will encourage you to recycle other materials? Why?
4. Does your community have a paper recycling program? How does it work? How successful is it?
5. Do you think that recycling methods have changed over the past twenty years? What technological innovations might have impacted how efficient recycling is today?
6. What impact do you think that engineering has had on recycling around the world?