Making recycled paper
|We love art as well as science in this house. There is rarely a day that goes past where Lily and Ethan aren't found at the dining table drawing away after dinner. They are both quite prolific, which is lovely because of the joy it brings all of us but I often feel guilty about the amount of paper that we go through, even though it is recycled.
Following on from our recycling sorting activity the other week, I thought that it could be good to go through an exercise where the kids could get an idea of what happens to the materials after they are taken away.
This activity similarly uses the processes used in a recycling mill to create new, functional paper. Recycling paper helps save landfill space from which greenhouse gases are released. Recycling paper also means less natural resources such as trees need to be used to create new paper products.
For younger kids, reading a book like this one can help create context for the activity.
By doing this activity at home, you are both helping reduce pollution and making a unique artwork that can be used for an array of purposes. Scrapbooking? A trendy birthday card? The canvas of a new art work? The possibilities are endless!
- Blender or egg whisker
- Mixing bowl
- piece of non-rusting screen (about 12" x 8" or the size of paper you want to make). We conveniently used a circular splatter screen which you can pick up from Kmart or here
- Flat dish or pan (little larger than the screen – used to hold the drained water)
- Rolling pin
- Large metal spoon
- Collection of scrap paper
- 2 cups of hot water
- Tear the scrap paper into small strips.
- Add 2 cups of water to ½ cup of shredded paper and let it soak for a couple hours or until it is soft and mushy.
- Beat the paper and water in the blender to make pulp. If you don't have a blender, leave the paper to soak overnight and then use the egg whisk to beat the pulp.
- Pour the pulp evenly into the flat pan.
- Flatten the mixture using the metal spoon, your hands and/or the rolling pin.
- Stack objects of weight on top of the mixture so it dries flat (We used the closest books and boards from the kitchen)
*It will take at least 12 to 24 hours to dry depending on how thick and wet the paper is.
* The paper you will be making will be much thicker and rougher than the recycled paper made at a mill. Paper mills have several machines to make the paper smooth and flat.
TIP: The first time we did this, we mainly used newspaper and white scrap paper. Next time we will try including coloured papers and maybe even dried flowers to give the end product some flair!
If all of this looks a little overwhelming then you could grab everything you need in a simple kit like this one here.
Recycling process and benefits
Recycling used paper usually involves mixing it with water and chemicals to begin the process of breaking it down. The paper and liquid mix is then shredded and heated, which breaks it down further into strands of cellulose, a type of organic plant material; this mixture forms a thick liquid called pulp. It is strained through sieves or screens, which remove any glue or plastic material that are still in the mixture. Next the mix is cleaned, de-inked, bleached, and mixed with water. Then it can be made into new recycled paper.
The United States EPA has found that recycling causes 35% less water pollution and 74% less air pollution than making virgin paper.
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