Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. These three words can be heard resonating through school classrooms as teachers try to instill a sense of stewardship for the planet by encouraging students to use less, fix instead of replace and to recycle their cans, bottles and paper. I often wonder however if students have any idea about exactly how recycling works. A trip to a recycling plant would be fabulous, but probably impractical for most teachers. I suggest teachers have students make their own recycle paper to learn how we can use used paper to make new paper. THE SCIENCE BEHIND THE PAPER MAKING Paper has been used in China since before 105 A.D. and some archeologists believe paper was used 200 years before this. The cellulose fibers in wood are the primary source for paper. These fibers are held together by a kind of glue that has to be extracted by tearing or shredding. Modern day papermaking employs the use of a kind of blender that shreds and tears the wood (or recycled paper) into a pulp when it is mixed with water. Sieves are used to extract the pulp and leave the water behind. As the paper dries, the cellulose fibers are glued back together and a new sheet of paper is formed. MAKING YOUR OWN PAPER MATERIALS
- wooden frame - sieve with holes of about 1 mm (available in a hardware store)flat sponge
- scraps of paper
- absorbent squares for drying: felt, cardboard, newspaper
- plastic tubs or trays
WHAT TO DO: Ask your students to search in their book bags for old assignments, letters from the teacher, hand out sheets from months ago etc., and have them begin to tear the paper in small bits. Take pieces of the paper and put it in the blender. Add water to cover and whirl it around until a smooth pulp is made. Pour the pulp into the plastic bin and add more water if it seems very thick. Take your wooden frame with the sieve mesh and lower it below the pulp. Bring up the screen slowly as the water drains out. Take the cardboard or other absorbent material and place it under the sieve. Use the sponge to soak up excess water. Slowly and carefully lift the sieve. Leave the pulp to dry over night. The paper will be dry in a day or two.
- Add water and blend into a pulp.
- Place pulp in trays and add more water.
- Use screens to gather up pulp and sieve out water.
- The paper will dry in a few days.