Creative Paper Recycling

FIELD: Earth Science DURATION: 2+ hrs
OBJECTIVE: Students will experience how simple it is to recycle paper.
METHOD: Students create their own paper using the pulp from scrap paper.
KEY VOCABULARY: Recycling, paper. GROUP SIZE: Any


Paper is created from plants, most commonly the wood of trees. Paper can be made out of a huge number of basic materials that contain the same key ingredient: cellulose. Cellulose is one of the most common substances in plants and helps give them their shape, from the stalk of cellery to the trunk of a tree. Cellulose also gives our paper its texture and provides for most of our clothing (cotton and linen are also made from plants and cellulose).

When we create a pulp from wood, spare plant materials, or scrap paper, we are ripping apart the strong fibers of cellulose that were in the original material. Luckily, we have not permanently damaged them. When pulp is dried, the cellulose fibers will reconstruct themselves and become strong again. If we dry the pulp in a flat, thin shape, the fibers will dry into strong, writable paper.

In this experiment you will create pulp from old newspapers and use cornstarch as a sort of glue to help keep the cellulose fibers intact. You will flatten the pulp and press into paper. When dry you can write on it or recycle it again.

MATERIALS (per group):

Old newspapers
Wax paper
Rolling pin
Wire screening (e.g. window screens)
Electric blender
Cake pan
Tap water
Stirring rod


1. Tear a page of newspaper into small pieces (about an inch long).
2. Place pieces in the cake pan. Add enough water to cover the paper.
3. Soak for about 10 minutes.
4. Mix about 40mL of water with half as much cornstarch.
5. Stir until the cornstarch dissolves. This will be the binding material for the paper.
6. Pour off the excess water from the cake pan.
7. Put the soaked newspaper into the blender. Add the cornstarch mixture.
8. Blend on high for about 2 minutes or until the pulp mixture looks like cooked cereal.
9. Put the screen over the cake pan.
10. Pour the pulp onto the screen. With your hands, spread it out so that it is thin and flat.
11. Cover the screen with wax paper and use the rolling pin to gently squeeze out excess water. Be careful not to squeeze the pulp through the screen.
12. Remove the wax paper and allow the pulp to dry completely (1-2 days).
13. Gently peel the new paper from the screen.
14. Try writing on it!


1. COLORED PAPER: You can make multi-colored paper by preparing several batches of pulp using food coloring or different colored scraps. Pour the different colors onto the screen in different designs to creatively personalize your new paper.

Created April 13, 1997 by Danica Nuccitelli.
Maintained by
Last updated April 15, 1997.