Environmental Science/paper to furniture


hello! i hope you can answer my paper-related question. many of the experts here specialize in water-related projects apparently.

anyway, i've recently been laid off so i have quite some free time and i would really like to tidy up my childhood home. we have a lot of paper here from school and work. i remember from schooldays that we used to have this paper packaging drive. the school held a contest where the students had to collect as many paper packaging (of juice and milk) cartons(?) as they can and by the end of it, we submitted everything to a plant, which then showed us a sample block of what they do and let us pass it around to touch it and have a closer look. they said their plant basically turns our thick paper packaging materials into tables for public schools and there were representatives from those schools to prove it.

i searched for this company last week and found out that they only process juice boxes and milk cartons, not scrap paper from reports or books or magazines or newspaper, etc. i looked up other plants and found out that all of them just make new paper out of the old paper, ready to get printed on by them or another company. so they're saving money in processing or getting money from selling the "new" paper, yet they will only pay you around 2 CENTS PER KG. it's far from the company my school partnered up with before, which don't make any profit from it and directly donates the tables to public schools. these are all in the philippines, by the way.

i'm sorry this is getting so long. i said all of that so you can understand why i don't want to simply give our paper to those other plants. and so my general actual question is how can i turn our paper into tables? i have a desktop shredder. that's pretty much it. can you tell me what chemicals or whatever to get so that i can do this? obviously it won't be some industrial level production. i'd be happy to build a simple table or like cubes that can serve as stools perhaps. just really simple things. my question is how will i be able to get the paper bits to reach that level of sturdiness (the block they had us pass around was damn hard. like a real wooden block, just really colorful because you can see bits of different juice/milk cartons)? is varnish enough? i also read somewhere that the paper can be soaked in resin and then left to dry. i assume the process is cut up the paper into bits, soak them in water or other liquid, pour this into a mold of a specific material or at least coated in something specific so the product won't stick to the mold, and then left out to dry? i really don't know. i'm only starting.

i'm aware that i've already burned so much of your time, i'm sorry. i'm telling you this early that i'll really appreciate whatever advice, knowledge, tips that you'd give me.

thank you.

please understand that i'm not aiming

Hi Amber:
A couple of points to answer your questions.
Yes, you can make furniture out of paper.  However, I would suggest that you look at the particle board manufacturers. They take chipped wood, mix it with binders and resins, and make a composite particle board which is substituted for plywood.  
It is possible to do the same with newspaper, but here are a couple of cautions, and thoughts. 1) i BELIEVE that the reason the other manufacturers are using only cartons and waxed or plastic coated papers is a matter of quality control for their raw materials. Newsprint is not a quality control product because there are all types of materials mixed in with newsprint, including glossy, and other types of papers and coatings.
2) One of the things you will want to do is de-ink the paper you use, as the chemistry of the inks may interfere with the setting of the polymers and binders you will need to hold your paper together.
3) Your process will also have to consider re-pulping the paper, not just shredding it. It's mouldable that way, where just compressing the paper mix is more difficult.
4) I would suggest that you contact some of the paper making institutes, such as forest products institute, and those listed on: http://www.ipst.gatech.edu/amp/general/museum_other_sites.htm
5) You will need to learn quite a bit about papermaking and furniture making because I can foresee a number of structural challenges, and finishing challenges.  
6)  I believe that any process will take a substantial financial investment, if you are to have something better than paper mache
I wish you the best of luck in your endeavors.

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David L. Russell, PE


I`m a Chemical,Civil and Environmental Engineer and have a number of projects in all phases of the environment. I have worked in the chemical industry and am active in professional societies, and am currently on an industrial wastes committee for the Water Environment Federation, and have taught courses in remediation in the US and abroad. I have written one book on Remediation of petroleum Contaminated Sites, and have a second book on PRACTICAL WASTEWATER TREATMENT to be published by John Wiley in September, 2006. I've also written over 30 articles on various elements of environmental problems and cleanup. Most Recently, I have addressed a NATO Scientific and Techical Conference on Ecoterrorism, and have worked with the same group on remediation of sites contaminated with Chemical Warfare Agent materials and othe materials as well. . I can answer q`s about Chemical and Environmental Engineering, land development, air pollution, water pollution, soil and water cleanup, combustion, international environmental problems, industrial processes chemical processes. Civil and Environmental and Chemical Engineering. Overall, I have over 35 years of experience in this area. Note: I do not answer homework questions


I love work in the third world and developing areas because it is challenging and one can get a sense of accomplishment.

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