Recycling is so much better than creating landfill waste. However, valuable resources are involved in sending materials out to be recycled. One alternative is to create less waste. Another alternative is to recycle at home.
While recycling some materials would be nearly impossible, recycling paper is absolutely possible. Kids enjoy crafts, but they will love this one. The following “recipe” is an adaptation from Terri Hall-Jackson’s “Recycling through Crafting: Handmade Paper.”
- Plenty of old paper (Used copy paper makes the best pulp. Shiny paper can be used as a decorative accent.)
- Two 5×7 inch picture frames with flat edges)
- A plastic or fiberglass screen
- Staple gun (or tacks)
- Decorative items (dried flowers or herbs, spices, thread, dryer lint, potpourri)
- Stacks of newspaper, for drying sheets of paper
- Disposable dish towels
- Create mold and deckle. Remove the glass from the picture frames. Stretch the screen tightly over one of the frames and staple it to the back of the frame. The second frame will be used as the deckle, the tool that sets the size of the paper.
- Prep the paper. First, sort the paper by type and color. Rip all the paper into pieces that are about one inch by one inch. Soak the torn pieces in basins of water, separated by color.
Make the Pulp
- Put a handful of the soaked white paper into the blender, adding warm water until the blender is about three-quarters full. Blend until the mixture has an oatmeal-like consistency. If the motor is straining, thin out the mixture by removing some paper or adding water. Repeat this process four times.
- Pour the pulp into a deep, large dishpan. Swirl it around with your hands. The mixture should be about 90 percent liquid. If needed, add more warm water.
- To keep ink from bleeding, dissolve a packet of gelatin in hot water. Stir it into the pulp mixture.
- Use colored paper to create confetti-like accents. Blend the soaked colored paper for about 10 seconds. Add the desired amount to the basic pulp. Add other decorative items to the pulp.
Make the Paper
- Prior to dipping the mold and deckle, always stir the pulp. Hold the mold with the screen facing up. Place the deckle upside down on top of the mold so that the smooth sides of the frames are facing each other.
- Firmly grasp the mold and deckle and lower them vertically into the dishpan, so that the bottom of the paper is going in first.
- Immediately bring the mold and deckle to a horizontal position under the pulp, and then lift them straight up, allowing the pulp to cover the screen.
- Avoid making cardboard by allowing only a thin sheet of pulp to collect on screen. Allow the excess water to drain off for a couple of minutes by resting the mold and deckle on a corner of the dishpan.
Dry the Paper
- The paper will need to dry overnight. Place a disposable dish cloth on top of several sheets of newspaper.
- Lift off the deckle. Turn the mold over onto the dish cloth so that the pulp side is down.
- Using a sponge, gently pat the back side of the screen to soak up the water, sponging well around the edges without wiping.
- Continue soaking up the water until the paper begins to separate from the screen. Starting at one corner, gently remove the mold.
- Allow the paper to dry undisturbed overnight.
- Starting at one corner, gently peel dried sheets off the kitchen cloth. If a sheet remains damp on the reverse side, turn it over and allow it to finish drying.
- Once all sheets are dry, place them in a stack and set heavy books on top of the pile for a couple of days in order to flatten them. Or, iron slightly damp paper between two dish cloths at a medium temperature.
Children and adults can use the homemade stationery to write letters or make birthday cards. There is a valuable lesson in teaching children to recycle at home. It does not hurt that it is a fun lesson for the whole family.