Oily Rag: Make your own paper out of scrap

By Frank, Muriel Newman


We recently noticed an article about a company making toilet paper out of recycled sugar cane stalks. It said recycled toilet paper is more expensive than the stuff made straight from trees ("because the carbon footprint is huge"), which got us thinking about recycled paper in general and loo paper in particular.

So we sent the staff in the Oily Rag Research and Product Testing Department to our local supermarket to see what they could find. They found many different types of toilet tissue, but they stuck with two-ply rolls to make things a little easier.

The cheapest was a supermarket-brand pack of 12 for $3.99, or 33c each. The most expensive was a cotton paper with marine pictures. It was 80c a roll.

Those who were less concerned about the quality of paper but wanted pictures, would have to pay 58c a roll.

The surprising find was toilet paper made from recycled materials did cost more than the regular types - about 66 cents a roll.

As a general rule, if you are paying more than 40c a roll you may be paying more than you need to.

While on the subject of paper, why not make your own writing paper? You will need scrap paper, water, an electric blender or your own pulping device, starch (if you are going to use felt tip pen on the paper), a few lengths of small-gauge timber, a small piece of cheesecloth (or muslin cloth) and some kitchen wipes.

The first step is making the mould. You will need timber (flat picture framing timber is ideal). Two identical moulds/frames need to be made.

These should be made in the same way one would make a picture frame. We suggest you make a frame with the inside measurements of a normal A4 sheet of paper (about 210mm x 300mm).

Next, take one of the frames and stretch cheesecloth across it. Pull the cloth tightly over the frame and secure it firmly to the other side of the frame using staples or tacks. Do this to one of the frames only. Once completed you are ready to begin.

To make a pulp, collect a quantity of scrap paper - avoid newsprint or thick glossy paper. Tear up the paper into small pieces, about 40mm square, throw into a blender and add water. Keep adding water and paper until the mixture forms a paste.

Next, place the covered frame in a flat container, with the cheesecloth-covered side face up, and place the uncovered frame on top. Holding the two frames firmly together, pour some of the mixture to cover the cheesecloth with a thin layer of pulp. Keeping the frames in this position, place them to one side to drain.

Meanwhile, place a towel on a flat surface and on this place a kitchen wipe. When most of the water has dripped away from the frames, take away the top frame and flip the bottom frame over so the pulp comes away from the cloth and falls on to the wipe. Place another wipe on top of this and repeat the process until six layers of paper have been built up, each separated by a wipe.

To squeeze out the excess water, place a breadboard on top of the stack and compress it. Next, peel away the stack and leave the paper in the air to dry.

Along with waste paper, most organic material (such as rose petals or green waste) can be turned into homemade paper for special projects.

Frank and Muriel Newman are the authors of Living Off the Smell of an Oily Rag in NZ. Readers can submit their oily rag tips at www.oilyrag.co.nz.

- Hamilton News

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