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Upcycling Junk Mail Into Paper Plates And Tableware: The Junk Mail Press

junk mail for paper plates

Paper plates, bowls, and other disposable picnic ware is awfully convenient: no dishes to wash once the meal's over. That convenience comes at a cost, though: a single paper plate represents about a half gallon of water used in its production, as well as trees and energy. You definitely can't recycled a soiled paper plate, and, depending on the material from which it's made, composting may not be an option, either, because of coatings used to keep liquids from seeping through the plate.

Yes, reusable plates require energy and water for production and cleaning, but, generally, they're less wasteful than their disposable counterparts. But what if those paper plates were made from material that was heading for the trash or recycling bin anyway? Wouldn't that create a more sustainable alternative?

That's the thinking that went into the Junk Mail Press, a creation of Australian-based designer Andrew Simpson. Displayed at last year's London Design Festival, the cast aluminum device allows a user to turn their junk mail into that convenient disposable picnic ware.

But shouldn't you just stop junk mail from coming? You can do that… to a degree… and, generally, you have to renew your request every so often. And companies with which you already have relationships can still send you mailings. Simpson shifted his view on junk mail from a wasteful use of resources to "a constant flow of free cellulose coming to people's homes." Why not put it to use before recycling or composting?

After some experimenting with the press itself, as well as the mix of paper and water, Simpson figured out that fully pulped paper and a healthy dose of pressure result in the best paper plates:

process for turning junk mail into paper bowls with the junk press

This product isn't commercially available, and I'm not sure that there's any plan to bring it to market. I've got a feeling such an item might have some sales potential, though: why not turn all of that junk mail into something useful?

Of course, you really don't have to have Simpson's press to make this conversion. Anybody done something like this with mailers or other waste paper? Share your process with us…