Paper is one of those things that most of us take for granted but is in fact one of the pivotal steps in our species’ long path to the way that we think and operate as modern societies!
Our modern lives are to a large degree defined by the almost continuous use of paper; from the books, newspapers and magazines we read, the cardboard that we use to store things, the money we use to buy the things we need, the documents that we write, mail, print and photocopy and the tissues and paper towels that we use in our homes, paper is simply everywhere.
Despite this prevalence of paper in our lives it does not seem like many people actually stop to think about the gargantuan and complex global industry that goes into producing and distributing all of those stacks and stacks of fresh sheets, as well as what happens to all of the used and discarded paper that clutter our streets, offices and homes.
To really give you an idea as to the scale of what we are talking about, here are some USA-related paper facts:
- Around half of the world’s forests have already been cleared or burned for commercial use, and around 42% of all industrial wood harvest goes towards making paper.
- A staggering 71 tons of paper are used in the US annually – with 24 billion newspapers (more than three times the entire global population!), 2 billion books and 350 million magazines being produced each year.
- The paper industry is a top 5 producer of greenhouse gases in the US.
- A quarter of what’s in all American landfills is discarded paper.
- In 2003, the percentage of paper that was recycled was 48%.
Image by: Zyance
Making your own paper
More and more people are now beginning to use recycle paper in their lives to re-use old sheets and turn them into fresh, blank new paper, either for specific projects or just to have around for notes and lists and so on. Some even to it just to feel like they are connected to thousands of years of human history!
Whatever your reason for wanting to make your own paper at home, there is a relatively simple and time honoured method of how to go about doing it.
What you will need
- A sponge
- Either a big square pan or a wooden picture frame
- A piece of very fine mesh window screen that fits inside either the pan or the frame
- A blender and an iron
- Water, a large bowl, a jug and a measuring cup
- Scrap paper (depending on the desired thickness of your final sheets, with tissue producing the thinnest paper and cardboard producing the thickest)
- Vegetable scraps, dyes or flowers for colouring
How to make your own paper
Once you have collected together your materials, you are ready to get old school and start making your own paper. Here’s how…
- Rip up your scrap paper into smallish chunks and soak it in water overnight
- Put your wet scrap paper mix into a blender until it is about half full, fill the rest with warm water and whoosh it all together (including your dye or vegetable scraps) until the blend is smooth with no bits or flakes remaining
- Now to make the mould. Depending on whether you are using the picture frame or the pan, take your window screen and place it on the inside of the mould
(Image by: Zyance)
- Pour the blended mixture in to a large bowl, and use a measuring cup to put about 3cm of water into your mould, followed by a cup of pulp mixture
- Spread the pulp evenly in the mould and then drain the water out
- When the mould stops dripping, place it face down on a flannel or tea towel and carefully lift the screen away, place another cloth on top and gently iron the mixture with a hot iron
- Let the mixture dry for around a day and there you are, your very own paper!
Now you have made your own paper, perhaps the first thing you should do is compose a letter to your local council on it, raising awareness about the need for more comprehensive community recycling schemes!