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Recycling newspaper around your home

Did you know that old newspapers can be put to excellent use? You can, of course, sell the lot to the 'kabaddi wala', every month, and earn a few rupees. But, then keep a few sheets aside to use around the house. You will be surprised how handy old newspapers are. They double up as cleaning agents and insulators. Come discover what else you can do with them.

A few days ago I was in Puducherry and stopped by at a bakery that came highly recommended. They use organic produce to bake their goodies. They use whole grain flour and healthy versions of baking mediums. They use traditional wood fired ovens, instead of modern electric ones. The ambience was great and the goodies were, of course, delectable and to die for. I have never known a whole wheat carrot cake to be so light and scrumptious, not even the ones that I have baked. However, that is not the point I am coming to. What caught my attention were the placemats and the disposable glasses and the bags use for packing. They sent me on a nostalgic trip.

Everything mimicked newsprint – there were real news reports printed on all the stuff. I couldn't help but remember the time when grocery and provision stores would use newspaper and old answer sheets and pages from magazines to wrap the wares they sold. I recalled often stopping at Baba Kharak Singh Marg, in New Delhi to buy moth dal chaat from a street vendor (wonder if he still stands there), who placed the green chilli infused snack in a conical shaped piece of newspaper. Newspapers were a big part of my growing up, albeit in a different way than they are now. This got me thinking of how my mother would put the old newspaper to use.

The daily newspaper can be recycled and used in a multitude ways. Here are random ways that that old newspapers can be put to use.

Handbag stuffers

My mother was an educated, modern, working woman, with impeccable taste. She had an impressive collection of handbags, for different occasions. Her work bags were different from her evening or party bags. She would use old newspaper as fillers, inside the bags, so they maintained their shape. This worked well for silk bags with zardozi work.

Dry rain-soaked shoes

Come rain and I'd jump into every puddle on the way home from school. The result was rain-drenched shoes. Mum had a wonderful way to dry wet shoes. She'd first stand them up against the wall, with the heel against the floor. Once the water drained out she'd stuff old newspaper into the shoes to soak up excess moisture. That done she'd leave the shoes to dry, under the fan or place them behind the fridge, where the ambient temperature was high. The shoes would be dry, by next morning.

Cupboard liners

Cupboards in the government accommodation where we lived were actually concrete recesses in walls, with doors on them. They were prone to attacks by silverfish. Dried neem leaves were scattered on all the shelves before they were lined with newspaper. This trick protected the clothes and books from bugs and moisture.

Ripen fruits

I remember mum wrapping green tomatoes, mangoes, papaya and sapota, she'd bring home from her father's farmhouse, to hasten the ripening process.

Stain protection

Newspapers came in handy when my brother and I would be messing around with watercolours. The table or the floor would be lined with newspaper. Those were the days when floors were clad in just cement or mosaic and stained easily. A newspaper lined floor when shoes were being polished, for instance, ensured the floor didn't get stained.

Add sparkle to the looking glass

Mirrors were kept sparkling with newspaper. You can do that too. Just sprinkle some water on the glass and wipe it off with dry newspaper. Repeat until you hear a squeaky sound with each swipe, for squeaky clean mirrors. You can do the same with car windscreens as well.

Keep winter draught out

When I was growing up winters in Delhi were severe. The cold winter winds would enter the home through cracks under the doors and in gaps between the windows. Dad would use folded sheets of newspaper to block these. With the draught out, the rooms would become cosy instantly.

For plants – Tip #1

This is a trick I learned. If you have potted plants and need to leave them unattended for a few days then you can try what I have successfully done on many occasions. Water the plants liberally, so the soil is completely soaked. Crumble half sheets of old newspaper and soak them in water. Use these to cover the soil around the plants. I have left plants for as long as twelve days at a stretch and they survived each time.

For plants – Tip #2

If you live in a cold place and have outdoor plants then you might want to protect them from the low night temperatures and the cold winter winds. I have used this tip successfully on my potted plants, on my balcony. Wrap glazed newspaper sheets (usually the magazine section from the Sunday editions) around the plants, and secure them with clothes clips. Do this every night, as long as the temperatures are low.

Kitchen tool

Newspapers are a handy 'tool' in the kitchen. I use them under the ('parat') tray when I am kneading dough or sifting flour and under the ('chakla') rolling board, when I am rolling chapattis. It makes cleaning the kitchen platform, after I am done, effortless. I also use newspaper while peeling veggies and fruits. I collect all the peels as they drop on a sheet of newspaper, and this makes it easier to clean up afterwards.

Miscellaneous uses of old newspaper

I have come across many DIY videos on social media that show old newspaper being used in innovative ways -

  • For gift wrapping
  • Making papier-mâché craft
  • Making paper beads
  • Making unique pieces jewellery
  • As an ingredient for compost

Over the years I have put the old newspapers to good use on many occasions.

  1. Used it for wrapping crockery, glasses and delicate curio during transfers
  2. Lined the boot of our car when transporting stuff that could damage the carpeting within
  3. Placed bits of newspaper under a table leg, to stabilize it
  4. Used it to keep the beading on the refrigerator door in place
  5. Made a scrapbook when I was a kid, sticking cartoon strips in a register
  6. Made hand fans whenever there was a power outage
  7. Used them as floor liners when the house was painted
  8. Carried sheets of newspaper on picnics/travel – they come in handy
  9. Used them to wipe dusty/damp seats
  10. Sold them to the 'kabadiwala' when I was young, and shared the earning between my brother and myself

Do you have any smart uses for an old newspaper?

Article by Juana
Juana is a freelance writer, with years of experience, creating content for varied online portals. She holds a degree in English Literature and has worked as a teacher and as a soft skill trainer. An avid reader, she writes on a variety of topics ranging from health, travel, education and personality development.

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Author: DR.N.V. Srinivasa Rao25 Apr 2017 Member Level: Platinum   Points : 2

Still in Hyderabad many small hotels use newspaper with inside a plastic paper to pack tiffins and snacks. The author has narrated all the uses of news paper in a very clear way. I have found one more use of this paper. When we are eating puris or chapatis they may have excess of oil. Before eating use a small old newspaper and press it against puri or chapathi on both sides. The excess oil will be adsorbed by the paper and you will find an absolutely dry puri. Generally I practice this in my house and when I go out I will use a tissue paper. Is it a bad idea?

Author: Juana26 Apr 2017 Member Level: Diamond   Points : 5

The practice of using newspaper and plastic sheets for edible items is occurring pan-India. Small time vendors and small eateries are using this means of packing food items. However, I am concerned about the safety aspect. Is the plastic food grade? I do not think those plastic sheets would be food grade, and could actually be harmful to our health.

Using newspaper to soak oil from food may not be such a good idea. I wouldn't do it. There is the risk of the ink from the newspaper getting transferred to the bread. After all, you'd be pressing them against the paper. It's better to use ‘kitchen towels'. They are thick paper sheets that come in rolls. They are a thick ply and super absorbent, and they are safe. They are easily available at grocery stores.

Author: jenny08 May 2017 Member Level: Gold   Points : 6

Here are few more uses:

  • Old new papers can be used to remove spills of oil, grease, sauce etc.

  • Paper bits of newspapers can be used to ignite a fire or to start a bonfire

  • Bags can be retained in its shape when newspapers are stuffed into them

  • Books can be covered with newspapers to avoid damaged/torn

  • Using wet paper, shards of broken glass can be removed from the floor

  • When gardening old newspaper can be used as knee pads

  • Newspaper can be rolled up and used to remove cobwebs

  • By rolling the newspaper it can be used as a pointer while teaching to show the text/diagrams etc.

  • Craftworks can be done using paper to teach children for competitions such as recycling waste/reuses of paper to make things like a jewel box, bangles, flowers, kites, earrings, windmills, vases, pencil holder, etc.

  • For science projects/exhibitions newspapers come in handy.

  • For activities in school like library week, children use papers for relevant activities such as bookmark making, book covering etc

  • During winter season they can be used as mats on the floors

  • To give a look for a carton box newspaper can be used to cover with attractive pictures. The box can be used for storage purposes.
  • Author: Anosua M10 May 2017 Member Level: Gold   Points : 0

    Hi Juana,
    A fantastic article to read as all these methods are written clearly. All the information are detailed and the procedures are written in simple manner so that any body understand it.Got some new ideas which I will try in my home.

    Author: Juana24 May 2017 Member Level: Diamond   Points : 3


    That is quite an exhaustive list of things to do with old newspapers.

    Old newspapers, especially the magazine section can be used for craft work, such as origami.

    These days newspapers run full page advertisements. Parents of young kids can cut the biggish, colorful alphabets from alphabets and stick them on cardboard pieces to make alphabet placards. These can be used for teaching the alphabet.

    I wrap greens, such as spinach, methi, and cilantro in newspaper sheets before storing them in the fridge. They remain fresher longer.

    Author: Umesh29 May 2017 Member Level: Diamond   Points : 3

    Very exhaustive article on newspaper usages and the points and tips are really very handy.

    We are also using the old newspaper in various ways and recently when we had to go out of station for quite a long period, we decided to cover the floor of balconies with old newspaper and we kept few bricks and wooden pieces on top of the newspapers to keep them in place when wind blows.

    After return when we removed the newspapers we were very much relieved to see the clean balcony.

    Author: Juana29 May 2017 Member Level: Diamond   Points : 3

    That is a very smart thing to do.

    I have observed some people place sheets of newspaper on top of cupboards. These sheets are changed periodically. It keeps the top of the cupboards clean and doesn't require time and effort to keep it clean.

    I had my daughter throw old newspapers on her suitcases when she was in the hostel. She changed them every few weeks. The suitcases remained clean.

    I think newspapers are quite versatile and can be used for so many things around the house.

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