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Hands-On Science

environmental science and chemistry

Recycled Paper

Turn used paper into new paper that's perfect for craft projects and writing letters - and do something good for the environment, too!

Materials 

  • White and colored used office paper
  • Embroidery hoops (or make a frame yourself)
  • Window screen or nylons
  • Blender
  • Large container or tub
  • Tray
  • Sponge
  • Scissors
  • Plate or cookie sheet
  • Decorative items such as glitter, dried flowers or pictures (optional)

Directions

  1. Cut the screen into a piece large enough to fit into the embroidery hoop with a quarter-inch overhang. Cut another piece of screen the same size – this will be used for blotting.
  2. Secure one piece of screen in an embroidery hoop by sandwiching it between the two hoops and tightening the screw. Trim the screen so about an inch hangs over the edge of the hoop. This is your paper-making mold. You will need one mold for each piece of recycled paper you want to make.
  3. Tear three sheets of white paper and one sheet of colored paper into one-inch pieces and place in a blender. Fill the blender halfway with warm water. Blend to create a pulpy mixture called slurry.
  4. Pour the slurry into the large container. Add extra water if needed so the water is a few inches deep.
  5. Place the mold into the slurry. Use your hands to scoop the pulpy slurry over the mold so the entire screen is covered. Gently shake the frame back and forth so the pulpy paper fibers are collected on the screen.
  6. Slowly lift the mold from the tub. Place the mold on the tray and cover with the extra piece of screen. Gently press the sponge on the blotting screen to remove excess water from the paper. Squeeze the sponge back into the slurry container. Continue blotting until most of the water is removed.
  7. Place the mold on a plate or cookie sheet in an area where it can be left to dry for 24 hours. Once the paper is dry, unscrew the embroidery hoop and remove the new paper.

Extension

Make several slurries using different colors of paper. What happens when you mix two or more colors of paper together? You can also add items to the slurry, such as dried flowers, glitter, or pictures cut out from newspapers.

Make your own frame for the paper-making mold by cutting out cardboard or a sturdy paper plate. Use frames in different shapes and sizes to make different shapes of recycled paper.

Vocabulary

Slurry
A pulpy mixture of paper pieces and water

Background information

Paper can be made from a variety of materials such as wood pulp, rice or cotton, as long as the material contains fiber. Most of the paper we use is made from trees and recycled paper. A single piece of paper may contain new fibers and well as fibers that have already been recycled once or more. Papermaking fibers can typically be recycled five to seven times before they become too short to be recycled again.

During the paper recycling process, ink is removed from paper in a process called de-inking. Recovered paper is chopped up and mixed with water to make a slurry. The slurry is put through a series of washing processes that use water and soap-like chemicals called surfactants to remove the ink. The slurry is put into a machine with a long, moving screen that allows water to drip through the screen. The slurry then moves through a part of the machine that presses and dries the pulp.