Creating handmade paper at home is a great way to keep kids busy over school holidays, and it’s also a great way to do some handy paper recycling. While you probably won’t use all your paper scraps in this way and will want to find a paper recycling facility near you for the rest of them, your kids can make fun projects with handmade paper. Plus, the process of making paper is really pretty easy. Here’s what you’ll need and what you do to make paper at home:
What you need
- Scrap paper torn into small pieces (about one inch by one inch)
- Deckle frame (options are explained in step one)
- 2.5 gallon tub that is larger than your deckle frame
- Dish towels, felt, blotting paper, or newsprint
- Rolling pin
- Decorative add-ins (dried flowers, colored paper pieces, thread pieces, etc.) – these are optional!
What you do
Step One: Make your deckle frame. It’s basically a frame for a piece of wire mesh or nylon stockings that you’ll use for drying your paper flat. One option is to cut a hole in the bottom of an aluminum brownie pan and to lay a piece of wire screen over the hole in the pan. For a longer lasting deckle frame, build or buy a wooden frame, and staple a piece of wire screen to the frame.
Step Two: Tear up paper (without any plastic or tape on it!) into small pieces, and soak it in warm water for thirty minutes to overnight. Longer is better when it comes to this step of paper recycling.
Step Three: Fill your blender about halfway with warm water, and then add a handful of the wet paper. Blend at a medium speed until you just see a pulp. (It’s called a slurry, in case you are curious!) Now is the time to add in bits and pieces of thread, dried flowers, torn up colored paper, or whatever else will give your paper texture, color, and personality.
Step Four: Put the blended slurry into the large tub, and fill it up with warm water until your ingredients are mixed up thoroughly.
Step Five: Slide the frame into the tub, and get some of the pulp onto the screen. Holding it under water, move it back and forth to even out the fibers that are present on your screen.
Step Six: Careful to keep it flat, lift the frame out of the mixture. Leave it over the tub until most of the water has drained off, and press the pulp with your hand to get the excess water out of it. Soak up water from the bottom of the screen with your sponge.
Step Seven: On a flat surface, place some clean dishtowels, newspaper, or other absorbent material. Then, flip the screen over onto the flat surface, and lift away the screen to leave the wet paper behind. Cover the paper with more absorbent materials, and get the rest of the moisture out by rolling a rolling pin over it. Allow the paper to dry overnight.
Step Eight: When the paper is almost dry, iron it on a medium heat setting to make sure it’s flat. After ironing, peel the paper from the absorbent materials gently from both ends.
Step Nine: Get the leftover pulp in a strainer, and don’t toss it down the drain! You can freeze it in a baggie for future paper recycling ventures, or you can throw it out.
Other paper recycling options
When you don’t have time or inclination to make your own paper, you can still participate in paper recycling in your community. Check out Earth911.com to find out where you can drop off paper for recycling near your home. If you have larger, harder-to-recycle items on hand, such as electronics or appliances, you can recycle them through Recycle San Diego. Not in the San Diego area? Check out Earth911.com for information on recycling those items, too!