Making Paper

Learning Objectives

Students will learn how paper is made and how old paper can be made into new paper. They will also learn the importance of recycling.

Associated Curriculum Topic

Energy in Our Lives; our responsibility to the environment


  • Embroidery hoop
  • Fine wire mesh
  • 3-4 sheets of scrap paper
  • Blender
  • Tub (large enough to fit embroidery hoop laying flat)
  • 1-2 tbs cornstarch (optional)
  • Wax paper or felt
  • Towels
  • Blow dryer (optional) to help speed up drying


This activity provides a demonstration of how recycling works. Most of the paper we use is made from wood. Other specialty papers, such as stationary or money are made from linen, cotton, or other plants. New paper is made by taking wood and cutting it into small chips. These chips are pressure cooked and chemicals are added. After further cleaning, bleaching and refining, the mixture becomes a fine pulp. The pulp is sprayed onto screens where it is pressed to remove some of the water. It then gets pressed with huge hot cylinders to remove the rest of the water and flatten the paper. At the end of the process, the paper is rolled onto a big spool ready for thousands of uses.

Recycling is the process of taking something old and making it into something new. In a paper recycling factory, the used paper is cleaned to remove the ink. It then gets blended with water to make pulp. The pulp is then pumped onto a screen where the water is removed and the paper is pressed and dried. The paper is then ready to be used again.

Humans use a lot of paper! More than half of the garbage produced by humans is paper. Recycling will help save the environment because fewer trees will be cut and less paper will end up in the landfill. Recycling is an easy way to help protect the environment.


This activity could be done as a demonstration or as a class activity.

  • To make screen, place mesh between embroidery hoops and press firmly together. Tighten hoop and trim excess mesh.
  • Blend scrap paper with water and pour into tub of water. Add cornstarch. Mix well.
  • Place mesh in tub and lift straight up. (You want the flat side of hoop on top, not the sunk-in side)
  • Invert hoop on wax paper or felt. Use towels to blot excess water.
  • Allow most of the water to evaporate before removing screen. (Blow dryer can be used to speed up drying). Let air dry completely.

Investigating Questions

  • What are the different uses for paper? (books, toilet paper, tissue paper, cardboard boxes, calendars, playing cards)
  • What is paper made of?
  • What other materials can be used to make paper?
  • How does recycling work?
  • What other materials can be recycled?
  • How might those other materials be recycled?
  • How does recycling help the environment?

Adapted from Teach Engineering