Five Steps to Recycle Paper at Home

Paper is one of the most useful stuff on planet Earth. That’s chiefly why you can always see lots of paper, crumpled, filed, bound, etc. almost everywhere. But this also means that paper is one amongst the highest contributors to the domestic garbage bin. The trouble with this is not just waste disposal. Oh no, the matter is much more serious. Paper is made out of wood pulp and as a result, thousands of trees are cut every year for manufacturing paper. If you’re wondering why that’s a big problem, check this small excerpt from my 7th Std. Environmental Science textbook:

“Forests help in balancing oxygen and carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, regulate earth’s temperature regime and the water cycle. Forests increase the local precipitation and water holding capacity of the soil, thus preventing drought situation. Vegetation cover slows down the run off on soil surface checking soil erosion, silting and landslides, reducing the danger of flood. Fallen leaves maintain the fertility of soil by returning the nutrients. Forests also provide home to large number of wild animals protecting them against strong winds and solar radiation.”

So indiscriminately cutting down trees does a lot of harm to the environment. But it would be absolutely crazy to ask everyone to stop using paper and go back to the old method of writing on cloth or animal skins. So, what is sane is to reduce the wastage of paper and to recycle used ones. With this, I better get into the real subject of this article – How to Recycle Paper at Home [the easiest and cheapest method by far].

These are some of the things you will need for this task:
  • Waste paper [maybe newspapers, ordinary papers, printer papers, etc; what you can’t use are think charts, note covers, laminated sheets and card boards.]
  • Mortar and pestle [something used to grind; blenders won’t work.]
  • A flat lid of some box
  • A thin cloth
  • A Mat
  • Water
  • Buckets [or any other such containers]

Now this is how you do it:

Step 1: Soaking

Take the waste pieces of paper, tear them into small bits [the smaller, the better] and put them all in a bucket. Pour some water into the bucket and let the small pieces of paper soak for 2-3 minutes.

Step 2: Grinding
Place a mat below the mortar, pestle and bucket, because this can get a bit messy and wet. Now take a few soaked pieces of the paper, put it in the mortar and grind it until it becomes somewhat like a paste. Even if it is in the consistency of porridge, it’s okay. The consistency will determine how smooth your recycled paper is, so the more nicely you can grind the paper, the better.

Now for people who have no experience with a mortar and pestle, let me give a few tips as to how you can grind it more easily:
  • Don’t take too much of paper at once into the mortar.
  • First slam the broad side of the pestle into the mortar, on the paper, to make the paper weak.
  • Then with the thinner side, grind it in a circular motion, such that the pestle does a complete rotation in the mortar, touching all the sides.
  • Keep repeating pointers 2 and 3 till you get the mashed paper of the consistency you need.

    Step 3: Collecting the Mash 

    Collect the squashed and pounded paper into another cup filled with water, to keep it moist. After you have collected all, spread a thin cloth over the box lid and make sure the cloth is spread even and without any wrinkles. This is important because it will affect the shape of your finished paper. Now pour the porridge-like paper puree into the lid and spread it out evenly.

    Step 4: Drying
    The lid will now contain the paper puree, but it will be very wet and moist. So let’s squeeze the excess water out of the paper puree. For this, use another cloth and press above the puree and squeeze the water out, without disturbing the shape and evenness of the puree. After you are satisfied that most of the water has been squeezed out, let it dry for a day or two. Don’t try instant drying as it may cause the paper to crack or curl.

    Step 5: Finishing

    Make sure the paper is dry by feeling it with a gentle touch. Even if there is very little moisture that you can feel, leave it for some more time to dry. If not, then when the paper really gets dry, it will curl and not remain flat. After the paper is fully dry, lift it along with the thin cloth underneath. Then remove the cloth gently from the paper’s lower surface. This surface will be flatter than the upper one. Now, your recycled paper is ready.

    You can color it with the help of a sponge dipped in paint and ball-point pens or thin markers can be used to write on it.

    Of course, it will be wrinkled and not exactly like paper which can be used daily, but this sort of paper can be used for other purposes such as greeting cards, wall hangings, pamphlets, etc. It can be used in place of card boards and charts. You can even try making structures out of this mashed paper technique. The ultimate aim is, you are doing something to reduce the use of paper and thereby, save the environment in your own little way. Try this at home and tell us about how your recycled paper turned out! As usual, comments are always encouraged.

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