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DIY: how to create handmade recycled paper

Paper is such a common material in our daily life that we do not pay any attention to it, even though we use it continuously during the day.
On average, 300 million tons of paper are used worldwide each year.

Throughout history, it has been the instrument that allowed men to preserve the cultural heritage of humanity: the most famous literary works were written on paper, as well as artists’ drawings and scientists’ calculations that led to great discoveries. Until a few decades ago, it was the only medium we used to store our memory.

In the past, for centuries, paper was made using mainly rags of linen, hemp and cotton; today, it is instead made of wood pulp, to the detriment of forests.
Probably most people consider used paper cuttings as useless garbage. Inside a piece of paper I instead see the trees that have been cut to make it. For this reason I believe that paper is precious and we must make it enter into an infinite circle of transformations and reuses.

Every piece of waste we throw away is a resource and it contains a great potential to create something new and wonderful!

“Nothing is lost, nothing is created, everything is transformed”.

Therefore I’d like to teach you how to recycle paper by hand, at home!
We will get sheets halfway between a light cardboard and a thick paper, with a rough and opaque surface.
With my method, the color is obtained without the addition of liquid inks because I prefer using scraps of colored cardboards which already contain inks.
Following a process as much as possible near to zero waste, I try to recycle all my paper scraps from the garlands and other decorations I often create, and I do not add any other additive or chemicals.

What kind of paper can be recycled?

Unfortunately, it’s not possible to recycle any type of paper at home. The one suitable for our purpose must be opaque, not glossy, nor laminated. Collect all the used sheets that you don’t need anymore, cut them in little pieces and divide them by color.

Other tools you will need are:

  • a blender
  • a basin full of water at room temperature
  • a wooden sieve made of two pieces: a frame with a small net and another frame with a hole of the size of the sheet we want to get (mine are A5)
  • some absorbent/felt cloths or sponges
  • a wooden press
  • the sun to dry the paper!

To waste the minimum possible energy, I advice you to recycle paper only in the summer, during sunny days, to exploit the heat and sunlight, that is free and clean energy.

Let’s start!

First of all, fill half the blender with water and the scraps of white/light paper. Obviously, the smaller these will be and the less effort the mixer will make to blend them. Let the paper scraps soak for a while and then start to blend. Do not fill the blender immediately: it is better to add paper and other water a little at a time.

Add also the colored scraps of the shade you chose. Depending on the amount you add, you will get a bright or a pastel color.

When the mixture is uniform, remove it from the blender and begin to shape the first sheet. Dip the sieve in the basin full of water and sprinkle the net with a few spoonfuls of our pulp, trying not to leave holes.

Carefully, remove it from the water, let it drain, remove the frame and cover with an absorbent cloth. Use a clean sponge or another absorbent cloth to remove excess water.

Turn the sieve and detach it from the sheet, slowly, to avoid ruining it. Here is our first sheet!
Continue with the same procedure until all the pulp has been used up.

Now it’s the turn of the sun: leave the sheets outside to dry. Remove them from the cloth when they are still slightly damp, but be careful: you have to be very delicate because at this moment our sheets are fragile and could easily tear up!

Stack the sheets in the press and close it tightly. It is useful to add some felt cloths between the sheets to absorb the moisture and it works even better if replaced after a few hours with dry ones. Don’t worry: the sheets will not stick together! Leave the press in the sun for a couple of days, turning it and opening it from time to time to check if the sheets are ready.
Remove the sheets from the press only when they are completely dry, otherwise they warp.

Once ready, our new sheets will be perfect for creative projects, for scrapbooking, to create decorations, bookmarks, or even as small photographic backgrounds, thanks to their rough surface.

What will you do with the new paper scraps from your works?
Simple: you can recycle them again!

You can also follow this tutorial in video, step by step (it’s in Italian with English subtitles):

Slow crafter from Italy ✂️🖌 🇮🇹 Nature lover 🌿

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