What you need:
Wooden frame (a photo frame will do), a sieve of 1 mm holes that can be fitted on the wooden frame, a large basin, water, blender, food colouring, liquid starch, vinegar, sponge, an iron-box and of course, paper!
1. Start by getting together some paper. Make sure it’s the unwaxed, non-shiny kind. Take care to include enough white papers that do not have too much black text. This will produce recycled paper that can be reasonably bright.
2. Roughly shred the paper, ensuring that there’s no stray plastic film, staples or other synthetic material and soak it in water for about an hour. You can add some food colouring to get coloured paper. If you want some white paper, try adding some vinegar to decolourise the pulp.
3. Once your paper is soaked, blend it into a smooth, non-pulpy mix using a blender. The lesser the stray flakes, the smoother your final paper will be. Add enough water to obtain a consistency of watery oats. Now that you have your paper “pulp” ready, you’re ready to mould your paper.
4. Start by fitting the sieve into the wooden frame. If it’s a photo frame, then all you need to do is replace the glass with the sieve. Choose a basin that is big enough to immerse the paper frame.
5. Before immersing the frame, fill the basin with water and stir in the pulp. Here’s the tricky part that will require you to tinker a bit. The density of your “slurry” determines the thickness of the paper. It also depends on the kind of paper you’ve chosen. But don’t worry! Once you start recycling paper, you’ll soon develop an instinct for how much water to add. Add 2 teaspoons of liquid starch. This will enable easier writing on your final paper.
6. Take your wooden frame and dip it into the pulp with the sieve facing down. Dip it until the sieve is submerged and move the frame gently so that the slurry uniformly adheres to the sieve.
7. Gently remove the frame and turn it over so that the sieve now faces up. You can rest it on top of the basin or some other surface.
8. Use a sponge to remove excess water from the slurry on the sieve ensuring that you don’t press too hard. As you patiently wait, the slurry on the screen will slowly dry into paper.
9. When you can lift it off the sieve, press the paper gently to release any remaining bubbles. If it refuses to come apart, place a layer of fabric over the paper and gently iron over the fabric. The heat will release the water, and the paper may be easier to peel. In your first few attempts, your paper may break or tear apart. Be patient, because success may just be a few tries away.
10. If you’re able to lift the paper, it means you’ve successfully recycled paper. It may still be a little damp. You can either dry it out using a hair dryer. Alternatively, you can place some fabric on the paper again and use an iron on high-setting to obtain a smooth shiny paper.
Write to firstname.lastname@example.org with how you plan to use the recycled paper. This feature is from Agastya International Foundation (www.agastya.org), which runs hands-on science programmes for students