Recycling: A Guide to Making Paper

There are a variety of uses for “homemade” paper. Use a paper recycling project as a way to promote awareness for recycling and landfill use. Recycled papers can also be used for wonderful crafts – everything from book covers to decorative pins. Whatever the lesson you use recycled paper for, check out the ideas here from T2T contributors, for uses you may not have considered before and some great links.

Coffee Can Paper
Materials: 2 large coffee cans (26 oz.), metal screen, non-metal window screen, sponges, paper towels, a scrap of wood about 6″ long and 3″- 4″ wide, an iron and a blender. Cut one end off one coffee can and both ends off the other.

1. Cut screen into 6″ x 6″ squares. Place the can with one end out on a level surface, opened side up.
2. Place the rigid screen over the opening and then place the window screen over that. Place the other can over the screens.
3. Tear up a 7″ x 7″ piece of waste paper into tiny pieces. Place in the blender.
4. Add 1 1/2 cups water. Place the lid on the blender and pulse until pulpy.
5. Pour half the pulp into each of two containers. Add 1/2 cup water to each of the containers. Dump the containers of pulp mixture into the can.
6. Lift the top can. Place a new sheet of window screen over the paper pulp. Remove the screens and place on a flat surface.
7. Press with a sponge and squeeze all the water out. Peel off the top screen.
8. Place some paper towels on the work surface. Place the new paper in the center of the towels. Place more paper towels over the top and press with the scrap wood.
9. Peel off the paper towels and the screen. Remove bottom towels and iron the paper with dry heat. Enjoy your recycled paper!

Iram’s Paper 1
Materials: old newspaper, electric blender, large pan, wire screening, water, cornstarch, stirrer, wax paper, rolling pin

1. Tear a page of the newspaper into small pieces. Place it in a large pan.
2. Add enough water to cover the paper and soak for 10 minutes.
3. While the paper is soaking, mix 1/4 cup of water with about 1/8 cup of cornstarch.
4. Stir until the cornstarch dissolves.
5. Pour out the water in the pan that was not absorbed by the paper.
6. Put the paper in a blender. Add the cornstarch and water mixture. Cover the blender, and turn it on high for about two minutes.
7. Put the screen over the pan. Pour the pulp onto the screen. With your hands, spread it out so that it is flat and thin.
8. Cover it with wax paper
9. Use a rolling pin to squeeze out the excess water.
10. Slowly peel the wax paper off the flattened pulp.
11. Allow to dry completely, about a day or two.
12. Slowly peel the new paper off the screen.

Iram’s Paper 2
Materials: tacks, fine screen (about 30 mesh), wood and nails, rolling pin, laundry starch, egg beater, blotting paper, several types of paper products (cardboard, newspaper, photocopy paper, etc.), a large tub or pail to make the paper pulp

1. Build a wooden frame, about the same size as you would like the paper to be.
2. Tack the screen onto the frame.
3. Tear sheets of paper products into small pieces less than 2 inches (5 cm) in diameter and put the pieces in a large tub or pail.
4. Add water and laundry soap in proportions of 1 tbsp of starch per cup of water to the torn paper.
5. Beat the mixture with an egg beater until the pulp is the consistency of a very light gravy.
6. Dip the deckle sideways into the pulp mixture until the screen is completely coated with a light layer of pulp.
7. Remove the screen and the sheet of pulp from the deckle and place between two pieces of blotting paper.
8. Press out the excess water with a rolling pin or and allow to dry.
9. Peel the new paper from the blotting paper and trim to size.

Variation: Try adding thread, yarn, glitter or coloured construction paper to the pulp mixture. It has quite an interesting effect. Iram’s Paper 1 & 2 submitted by T2T contributor Iram Khan.

“I once made paper with students using ripped up construction paper, water and glitter. Everything went into the blender and then got laid out on some sort of a screen to dry… it dried fairly quickly (a day or so), and was easy to clean up.” -Allyson

“You add water and paper to a blender, then blend it up with some special paste, then place it on a screen to dry it, and optionally use a cookie mold to make a shape. [Use] the shaped paper by gluing it onto a homemade card, or as a decoration…you can use Styrofoam balls, or painted pine cones, or even painted Popsicle sticks.” -Brian

“I teach a creative writing class (high school). As an end-of-the-year project, I would like to have my students create their own paper and compile a small book of their best writing (they can print shorter stories and poems in calligraphy, use pressed flowers to decorate, create their own illustrations or use magazine pics, etc).” -Tracy

“You’ve probably heard: “Be sure you are willing to ruin the blender.” It doesn’t ruin the blender — I’ve been making it for years! It is great way to teach about paper recycling and the history of paper. You can use scrapes of construction paper to color your paper. Add glitter and dried herbs and so much more. I used a sunflower mold once — inserted actual seeds into it. Then the recipients could simply bury the cast and flowers grew from it! Craft Supply stores supply kits and the materials. Library has books on it. In this area you can write to recycling org. or paper companies and they have lots of instructional ideas for paper making. It is an inexpensive hobby, albeit a bit messy. Have fun!” -Beverly

* Tree-Free: Not all paper is made from wood. Discuss what other materials could be used to make paper, then test out the theory by trying it.

Quick Tips on Parchment Paper:
Great for handwritten manuscripts and any class project requiring paper with an “older” feel.

“Mix up some regular, strong black tea and paint the paper with that — it takes several applications. You get the best results from thin, “onion-skin” type office paper. When we made medieval manuscripts, we did all the art work etc. first and the “tea” was the last step (be sure and press them flat while they dry or at least weight the corners down.)” -Susan S.

“My class has done this (above) in the past and we tried both tea and coffee, also baking the paper in the oven with adult supervision. The kids felt that using coffee and baking was the most effective method.” -firedancer

What Kind of Paper?
A Quick Guide
Who knew there were so many different kinds of paper? And this is just a sampling of the many specialty papers that exist. If you really want to learn about paper, consider a trip to a paper mill, a paper supply company that sells to commercial printers, or even a commercial printing company. Many of these businesses would be happy to offer a tour and description of their trade.

Aromatic Paper: usually handmade paper with natural ingredients added to the mixture for aroma: lavender, cinnamon, or rose petals, for example
Brown Paper: strong, natural brown paper often used in wrapping and bag making; this inexpensive paper is the choice for earthy appearance with other naturals such as twine, raffia, or dried florals
Bond Paper: everyday paper widely available with a medium weight and extensive color range
Bristol: heavy weight, high quality used in construction paper crafts
Coated Paper: very smooth surface on one or both sides, available in gloss or matte finish
Crepe Paper: very lighweight paper that is often not colorfast, but available in a rainbow of colors
Corrugated: light, but strong paper traditionaly used for packing fragile items, but also used in papercraft for its unique ridged texture
Layout Paper: lightweight, strong paper with a resistence to water making it great for paint and ink washes and transparent enough for tracing
Tissue Paper: translucent, light bodied paper with a delicate construction
Newsprint: recommended for paper maché projects this paper is highly absorbent and has a natural appearance unless bleached; coarse, weak texture
Rice Paper: very thin paper made from rice grass
Sugar Paper: highly absorbent paper with grainy appearance available in many colors
Parchment: fine artwork paper with brownish tone to look older, often used for manuscripts & certificates
Uncoated Paper: plain or embossed finishes with fibers aligned in one direction; great for folding