Pulpy Paper Pots

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Introduction: Pulpy Paper Pots

Growing plants and recycling at the same time is a pretty great feeling. In this instructable, we will take some waste from around the house and turn it into biodegradable pots for starting plants. This will be a messy process if you'd like some ready-made pots to grow seeds in try these instructables for a simple paper roll pot, or a clever idea for a seedling tray.

Here is what I used:

Materials:

  • Cardboard & paper trash - I found cardboard boxes weren't ideal but egg cartons and other more pulpy paper worked great.
  • Dryer lint - if you can get lint from the dryer after a load of towels it works best
  • Coffee grounds - thrown in the filter too!

Tools:

  • Large container: large enough to submerge your paper/lint/coffee materials.
  • ScissorsForm for pot: I used some take out soup containers for larger pots and muffin tins for smaller pots.
  • Strainer
  • Optional:
    • Shredder
    • Blender: when making pulp from cardboard no amount of shredding could break it down so I resorted to using a blender. When I made pulp from egg cartons, lint, and other pulpy paper I didn't need the blender

Step 1: Making Pulp!

We aren't exactly making paper, (see this really great Instructable for that) we are making a cruder pulp to make a pot. The most successful pots I was able to make were using paper egg cartons and drink carriers mixed with coffee grounds and lint.

This step is all about getting the fibers loosened up in the water. A less refined paper, preferable a paper or cardboard made from recycled content will break down faster and without too much work. When using regular box cardboard I did have to resort to using a blender to break the paper down into more workable material.

Using pulped cardboard packaging, such as egg cartons or drink carriers

  1. Break down the pulped cardboard into smaller pieces. (I found stomping on the egg carton or drink carrier was a nice stress reliever and broke things down nicely.)
  2. Put your broken down pieces into the container. You can also add in your lint and used coffee grounds. (Don't use too many coffee grounds, it will make the final product too crumbly. I found a 4 to 1 ratio of paper to grounds worked best.)
  3. Add water and let soak, overnight at the least.
  4. To achieve a nice slurry consistency use your hands to break up larger pieces, if larger pieces don't break down you might need a blender. (See step 4 below)

Using cardboard, or more refined paper

  1. Break down your cardboard and paper into small pieces, a shredder is handy for this step, it can be tedious tearing or using scissors to cut up the material.
  2. Add the cut-up paper in a large container, along with any other biodegradable product you'd like. You can also add in your lint and used coffee grounds. Don't use too many grounds, it will make the final product too crumbly. I found a 4 to 1 ratio of paper to grounds worked best.
  3. Add water and let soak, overnight at least.
  4. At this point we looking to achieve a nice, loose, slurry. If the material hasn't broken down it will need some help. Add the material in a blender with enough water to allow the blender to do its thing.

Step 2: Forming the Pot

The potting begins! The paper/coffee ground/lint slurry will need to be separated from the water. I used an old kitchen strainer I had on hand. You can also use a loose-knit fiber cloth or cheesecloth. If you have nothing on hand just pouring off the water that is on top of the settled paper slurry should be sufficient.

I used old takeout soup containers to form larger pots, using my fingers to evenly spread out the material and squeeze out any water that remains. For the smaller seedling starter pots, I used a muffin tin. It's the same process as the larger pots, using your fingers to distribute the material evenly inside the tin cup. Let the paper dry a bit, I set the takeout containers upside down on the concrete on a sunny day and it dried in 24 hours.

Now you have some pots! Now grow some plants!

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