Meeting the ladies behind RePapel Puerto Plata was a highlight of my time in the Caribbean with Princess Cruises this year. This was one of the excursions offered through Princess Cruises and we absolutely loved it.
RePapel Puerto Plata is a women’s co-op in the Dominican Republic creating jewelry and handmade paper with 100% post-consumer recycled paper. Our day with RePapel was made possible through my partnership with Princess Cruises and I am absolutely thrilled to be sharing it with you today.
My sister Jenny and my friend Rebecca visited RePapel with me. From the Amber Cove port, we were driven to the location where these women recycle the paper by hand and then use the paper to make products to sell.
Puerto Plata is located about half an hour from Amber Cove, the cruise ship terminal in the Dominican Republic. We drove through the city to get to the RePapel factory.
RePapel was started by six women who used to work as housekeeping staff for other families. They would stay with their employer’s family for 5-6 days and only be with their own family one day a week.
One of the women knew how to recycle paper and from that simple skill, they have built this co-op. Located in a converted home in the Javier neighborhood in Puerto Plata, the RePapel “factory” is not fancy, but in just a few rooms, these women produce the items they sell to support their families.
Similar to the bread making experience that Sean and I enjoyed in Ireland last year, this was a hands-on excursion.
Jenny, Rebecca, and I learned not only how to make recycled paper, but also how to craft the notebooks and jewelry that the women sell to support their families.
How To Recycle Paper
Let’s talk for a moment about how recycled paper is made. While simple enough in theory, it’s a time-consuming process. This is the method that the women of RePapel use to create each sheet of recycled paper.
Step One – Separate the papers
These are used pieces of paper. So, you carefully tear each paper to utilize as much of the precious white edges as possible. The parts of the papers with ink on them are torn into bits as well and separated into a colored bin.
Step Two – Blending Scraps / Pulp in Washer
The scraps of white paper are soaked or “washed” in an old washing machine. This forms a watery paper mixture.
Then that mixture is blended with water (literally blended in an old kitchen blender) until they form a thick and somewhat clumpy white liquid mixture.
Step Three – Sheet Molding
This mixture is poured into a long shallow bin. Rectangular frames with mesh screens are then pulled through the watery mixture, creating a wet paper form.
This is then turned onto a cloth over cardboard where a sponge is used to press the water out of the paper you’ve molded.
The wet molded paper is then stacked in racks to dry.
Step Four -Sheet Couching / Pressing / Drying
After the recycled papers have dried completely, you’ll use a smooth stone or roller to smooth it out as much as possible.
At that point, products can be made with the paper.
After we made our own batches of paper and set them to dry, we moved into the house and assembled notebooks with paper that was already dry and ready to use.
We decorated the notebooks with the colorful paper sticks you see here. Those “sticks” are formed out of strips of magazine papers.
Having seen how much work and how much time goes into each of those notebooks, I have a great deal of appreciation for all of it. Also, I’m really not an artist. Just thought you should know.
In addition to decorating the books, magazine papers are also used to make the beads for the jewelry and other objects the women sell.
I chose to make and purchase a small ring of beads to hang on my Christmas tree. I love to collect Christmas ornaments when traveling and can hardly wait to hang these beads on our tree.
My sister Jenny and Rebecca both made necklaces to remember our visit to RePapel.
This excursion was listed as a service project and it was a few hours of actual work along with a lot of fun. We loved meeting these women and spending time with them.
While we visited the Dominican Republic in March and the weather was absolutely lovely, it was also incredibly humid and within a couple hours, we were all dripping with sweat. I can only imagine that it is absolutely exhausting work if you spend a full day recycling the papers and making the items to sell.
Truthfully, we were hot and tired after just a few hours – and in the middle of summer? I am so thankful that my own day-to-day work happens in an air-conditioned home with so many luxuries.
The three of us returned to the ship feeling grateful beyond words for the cool sheets, modern conveniences, and for this incredibly handy MacBook that I’m typing on now.
If you’d like to read more about RePapel and the women behind this project, please visit the website. You can also purchase products and support them that way as well, if you are so inclined. All of the items are available for purchase through this Etsy shop.
Disclosure: I am exceedingly grateful to Princess Cruises for the opportunity to visit RePapel and work alongside these women. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own. For more information about Princess Cruises and/or to book a cruise visit their website.
Want to check out more of our Medallion Class cruise through the Caribbean? This Jalapeno Honey Butter is inspired by Planks BBQ onboard the Caribbean Princess. And The Dirty Banana milkshake/cocktail is a favorite on every ship. The Spinach Orzo Salad is inspired by the International Cafe. Last but definitely not least, the Sandia en Fuego is officially the best margarita I’ve ever tasted.