Many of us throw paper in our recycling bins without too much thought, but believe it or not, people have been making paper for 2,000 years. In the U.S., we’ve been recycling it for more than 100 years. Paper recycling might seem like the sort of thing best left to paper mills, but it turns out you can recycle your own paper at home without too much trouble. You’ll be able to eliminate some household waste — like junk mail, used printer paper, or old wrapping paper — and create something unique and handmade at the same time.
What You’ll Need:
- Waste paper (almost anything will work — just avoid glossy paper like magazines)
- A blender or food processor
- An old picture frame
- Mesh or screen (can be found at a craft store)
- Felt, cloth or sponge
- A rectangular bin to hold water (a 13” x 9” pan would also work)
- Decorations like dried flowers, confetti or seeds (optional)
Plenty of instructions exist online for how to make your own paper. The Daily Green offers a straightforward video tutorial, which makes the process easy to understand, and About.com’s Chemistry section has a simple set of written instructions. To give you a general sense of the process, we’ll summarize how it works.
1. Tear the paper into small pieces and put into a blender with warm water. Blend until the mixture becomes a fairly smooth pulp.
2. Assemble your “mold”; attach your screen to your frame using duck tape, staples, or any other method that will keep the screen affixed to the frame’s edges.
3. Pour the pulp into your bin or pan, then sink the mold into the water mixture. Pull the mold up, and pulp should cover the screen. At this point, you can add decorations. You can even add seeds to make plantable paper. Be sure to add a little more pulp to cover the decorations so they adhere to the paper.
4. Use a cloth or sponge to press out excess water. Now you need to let the paper dry. You can let it dry on the screen, you can flip the mold over and let your paper dry on another surface, or you can press a cloth into the mold so the paper adheres to it and can dry on the cloth. Any of these options should work. Just be sure to let your paper dry for a day or so.
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Looking for more projects that use household waste? Read: 10 Funky Ways to Reuse Old Magazines
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on March 8, 2015. It was updated on June 10, 2016, with new links and images.