Author – Mansi Gupta
There is a big debate out there on what exactly is eco-friendly… paper vs plastic, wood vs metal, etc. Paper is considered eco-friendly, but the production of commercial papers does require a lot of wood fiber.
Handmade paper or recycled paper has the upper hand of being 100% wood free. The pulp used to produce it generally utilizes a wide range of waste raw materials such as cotton fabric rags, hosiery & tailor cuttings, plant stems, jute waste, paper waste, agro-waste, etc. It can utilize any fiber that has the capability of forming a continuous sheet of paper. This makes it 100% eco-friendly and 100% natural.
Handmade paper is made by entwined fiber layers that are held together by the natural bonding properties of cellulose. The mould in which the paper takes shape is covered by a flat frame called a deckle. The deckle is dipped into a vat of wet pulp, shaken to distribute the fibers evenly, and drained to remove excess water.
This thin layer of paper that forms on the deckle is then sun dried. Sometimes it may be hot or cold pressed to remove moisture depending on the requirement. The production doesn’t add to pollution or deforestation thereby contributing to being eco-friendly in the true sense. Handmade paper works well for both general applications i.e. writing, printing. The advantages might surprise you but, it has greater burst strength, tear resistance, tensile strength, and double-fold strength than conventional paper.
Top Handmade Paper Producer Companies across India
Today, a wide range of companies and voluntary organizations across India produce a variety of handmade papers to ensure an overall positive change in our lives. Here is a list of a few leading handmade paper producers in India:
Auroville Papers is considered a pioneer in handmade paper which was established in 1996. It is a creative enterprise of Auroville, the global village located near Pondicherry, South India. The materials used to make handmade paper include natural fibers and recycled paper. Their handmade papers are made from 100% long fiber cotton rags that give permanence, durability, strength, to the sheets. Rags are sorted by hand, while the fibers are shortened in Hollander beater.
Their specialty handmade papers include a range of dry leaves of native trees south Indian such as Bauhinia, Eucalyptus, Acacia, Kadamba and others that are imprinted on the paper. This gives an impressive appearance with a fine texture and feel. These papers made are acid-free, which makes it 100% eco friendly. They are available in a variety of colors and different weights. They even produce jewelry, stationery, and a great variety of works of art.
The most interesting thing about Auroville Papers is it conducts workshops for paper making. Here one learns how to turn weed and plants into pulp to make paper. This is a 2-day workshop, in which you are taught pulp making, paper sheet formation, and for you to unleash your creativity.
A.L. Paper House
A.L. Paper House is considered the oldest handmade paper producer in India, which was established around 200 years ago in Sanganer, Jaipur. They are the largest manufacturer and exporter of recycled handmade cotton-based paper products in India and they have won the best handmade paper company award in India regularly since 2000.
They have a variety of products available including handmade paper bags, handmade paper stars, handmade paper gift boxes, and jewelry boxes. They even make Paper lampshades in a variety of textures, that look more appealing compared to fabric ones. Since these lampshades are made from handmade papers, there is a unique diffusion of light that is pleasing for the eyes. They don’t use any sort of chemicals and wood pulp during manufacturing. Since, they believe that the most attractive point in manufacturing handmade paper & paper products is the fact that it is 100% eco friendly, & based on ancestral technical skill.
Haathi Chaap was founded in 2003 by Mahima Mehra and Vijendra Shekhawat. It began its journey in Delhi and specialise in manufacturing paper from Elephant dung. This raw material is highly fibrous, so it requires slight tweaking in its production process as compared to other handmade papers. They create bags, photo frames, notebooks, stationery, cards, tags, and more from elephant poo handmade papers. Further details can be read in our dedicated article on Elephant Poo Paper.
Bluecat Paper is a new handmade paper producer founded by Kavya Madappa in 2018. This handmade paper unit is located in Bangalore. The company aims at creating 100% tree-free & sustainable paper products that are acid-free and handmade. The paper produced is upcycled and recycled without cutting down trees. Since the residual waste from the cellulose is very high, they do not add any chemicals, which helps in it being recyclable and completely eco-friendly.
They produce the pulp from a wide range of natural fibers such as cotton rags, linen rags, coffee husk, banana fiber, mulberry, corn husk, elephant poo, bagasse, vetiver grass, ragi, tea waste, and flax fiber to name a few. They manufacture 5,000 to 6,000 sheets of paper a day.
The waste water is recycled in the company’s own effluent treatment plant and since chemicals are not used, recycling is easy. They also create handmade paper products suitable for gifting and packaging. They also do screen printing and offset printing on paper using organic dyes. These water-based dyes are produced from plant extractions and are eco-friendly.
Athulya Handmade is a part of Srishti Welfare Centre, which is a corporate social responsibility initiative by Tata Global Beverages. Established in 1999 this voluntary started off by recycling waste paper as an income generation activity for the differently abled. They earlier used cut boards and other stationery waste from corporate offices.
Later they created 100% natural paper using natural additives found around Munnar like tea leaves, eucalyptus leaves, lemon grass, pineapple leaves, onion peel, flower petals, elephant droppings and water hyacinth. These fresh leaves acts as a natural insecticide and effectively repels small insects and silverfish. These are converted into sheets and used for lining bookshelves and cupboards.
Apart from regular papers, they produce unique pineapple leaves paper and Lantana paper through an intensive and skilled labour process. These papers are used to make various craft items. There are around 52 eco-friendly, azo-free, biodegradable innovative products being routinely produced from such papers.
Their products include a waste paper box, gift boxes, a folder with cloth covers, magic box, photo frames, gift bags, greeting cards, napkin and envelope holders and so on. The papers are also available in the form of rolls of six sheets of two different sizes.
A father-daughter duo started this venture in Guwahati after discovering the elephant dung paper in Rajasthan. Mahesh Bora and his daughter Nisha Bora established their first manufacturing unit in 2014 in Chaygaon, a village near Guwahati. Today, Elrhino Paper sells various handcrafted luxury papers, stationery products, and packaging materials.
After thorough R&D, the team began using dung of rhinoceros and elephants found in Assam for their paper manufacturing process. The process starts with collecting elephant and rhino dung, which is washed and boiled in caustic soda for 4 hrs and cleaned and dried. After which the banana plant is chopped in small pieces and cotton hosiery rags are added and boiled in caustic soda to get the pulp, which is cleaned and dried.
Cotton rags along with the processed fiber are put in the Hollander beater and are mixed for 3-4hrs to create proper paper pulp. This pulp is laid out in sheets, which are pressed, dried, calendered and cut. Compared to wood, they use 44% less energy, produce 38% less greenhouse gas emissions, and 50% less waste.
Surprise Someone is a venture started by a mother-daughter duo in 2015. The daughter aka Pinky Maheshwari and her mother Sharda Daga started their journey in creating recycled handmade paper. They make handmade paper from cotton rags or waste cotton. Their entire product line including various products is 100% eco-friendly. Many of which are made from recycled handmade paper. They take their love for nature a step ahead by adding seeds inside the paper while making it. When the paper product is disposed of, the seeds can eventually grow into plants.
They aim at contributing to save the planet from global warming by stopping deforestation due to paper production. They also manufacture 100% biodegradable seed-pencils that are made from recycled paper and old newspapers. Instead of an eraser, each pencil has a seed capsule on one end. The capsule contains herbs like basil. Once the writing end of the pencil is all used up, you put the capsule end in some soil water regularly. The seed germinates within 1-3 weeks. They even provide employment to women in rural areas. All their products on their website are made by women from different backgrounds.