Making Paper from Grass


Paper made out of banana tree

You use stacks of paper every day but do you know how it’s made? Paper has been made since 105 AD in China, but other materials such as papyrus (in Egypt), parchment and vellum (various grades of mammal skin) were used in other parts of the world prior to this. Find out more about the history of paper at Wikipedia.

In Sri Lanka, a fair trade company is making paper from elephant pooh! In that country, humans are encroaching on elephant habitat, cutting down trees for fire wood and shooting and killing elephants that come looking for food. This company, “Mr. Ellie Pooh” aims to create employment and encourage villagers to see the elephants as an asset rather than a threat.

Compared to using virgin wood, paper made with 100% recycled content uses 44% less energy, produces 38% less greenhouse gas emissions, 41% less particulate emissions, 50% less wastewater, 49% less solid waste and — of course — 100% less wood.

This week we are making paper from grass in six steps:

  1. Cut the grass and grind it with the mortar and pestle
  2. Add caustic soda to release the cell contents
  3. Wash and rinse to remove chemicals and cell contents
  4. Add bleach and bring to the boil
  5. Wash and rinse to remove the bleach
  6. Form the paper

Which of these steps are physical changes and which are chemical changes?

9 thoughts on “Making Paper from Grass

  1. hello please can u tell the quantities of caustic soda used? and also its normality? and what does bleach mean?

  2. Depending on the quantity of grass, the amount of caustic soda used just covers the grass. Bleach is a household whitening chemical used in laundries and to disinfect when cleaning. From Wikipedia – “Chlorine is the basis for the most commonly used bleaches, for example, the solution of sodium hypochlorite, which is so ubiquitous that most simply call it “bleach”, and calcium hypochlorite, the major compound in “bleaching powder”. Oxidizing bleaching agents that do not contain chlorine most often are based on peroxides, such as hydrogen peroxide, sodium percarbonate and sodium perborate. While most bleaches are oxidizing agents, some are reducing agents such as sodium dithionite and sodium borohydride.”

  3. Would replacing caustic soda with salt work? I know that salt also drains fluids, but is there a certain reason why caustic soda is used?

  4. I tried this method and it worked but instead of using caustic soda I used backing soda because I was making a treat for my horses

  5. that’s alternative for deforestation and perennial source of raw material for paper.

  6. Hi there,
    Green grass – any lawn-type – is what I have always used. It is not really a very sustainable way of creating paper because of the chemicals used. I don’t think caustic soda can be replaced with salt – the caustic soda is a strong alkaline.

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