Paper: Reuse and Recycle, Mom Edition


Paper is one of the most recycled products by weight in the US; more than glass, plastic, steel and aluminum combined, according to Paper Recycles

If you have budding artists like me, material appropriate for mark-making is always a hot commodity. I gave up on coloring books when my child would color over the lines with his own ideas like they were blank pages.

Actual blank paper was the next step, but how best to fuel the paper monster?

  • Junk mail is seemingly never-ending. According to Edward Humes, author of the book “Garbology: Our Dirty Love Affair with Trash,” Americans receive about 848 pieces of junk mail annually. I have found by opening these pieces before they hit the recycling bin that many have half sheets or full blank one-sides ready for my artists to enjoy. Also, insides of envelopes can have blanks or even interesting designs.
  • School sends me an abundance of paper. From one-sided flyers to old worksheets (if my kid hasn’t already drawn on them at school), this is my bread and butter for paper accumulation. Pro tip: Often, extra flyers are kept as a parent resource in the office. Checking that resource area, I have found expired flyers prime for the taking (check with your school first, but they are likely just going to be recycled). This is my biggest source of colored paper; a premium in this scrap-paper mindset. Colored paper is so interesting to experiment with, and my kids love being able to use their white crayons.
  • Growing up in the 20th Century, I am stuck in a paper past. I often still write down directions and grocery lists. The insides of most paper packaging are useful to jot down what I need on my next shopping trip or how to get where I’m going. After their new life of my chicken scratch, the packaging can still go into the recycling bin.
  • The colored, outsides of paper packaging can also be raw materials for school or craft projects. My daughter was assigned a project to create the members of her family as snowmen. We were able to use all recycled materials aside from the backboard and the tape to hold it all together. It was incredibly satisfying to experiment with all the choices. We used the insides of boxes for the blank snowman shapes, a picture of garlic bread for Pikachu ears, and candy wrappers for a skirt.

When it comes to art projects, the recycling bin is brimming with potential. Doing a quick search on Pinterest, I entered the letters, “r-e-c-y” and “recycled crafts” was the first auto-fill.

Maybe the best part is all the recycling. I do keep papers to be drawn on in a drawer, but everything else is in the recycling bin. Whenever the opportunity arises, the digging commences. But come recycling day, it is all taken away.