DIY Paperboard Notebooks, Bookmarkers

Make your own upcycled paperboard notebook and bookmarker using materials from your recycling bin.

(Published on Wednesday, September 16, 2015, in The Daily Citizen newspaper, Dalton, GA.)

Recycle & Reuse: DIY Paperboard Notebooks, Bookmarkers

Every Friday at the recycling center is “Reuse It Friday” a day to make a craft, DIY, or upcycling activity to encourage reuse before recycling. Mascot Recycling Ben will usually post a featured craft on his social media pages like Facebook. Visit to see a list of all the places you can follow him online. Last week we transformed paperboard product boxes into bookmarkers and mini notebooks with scrap paper.

Paperboard is a paper that is thicker than copy paper but not as thick as cardboard. It’s one of the most common materials used for packaging household products. You probably have lots of it at home already – tissue boxes, cereal boxes, pasta boxes, and others. Here are instructions so you can take one of those boxes and transform them into something useful before they get recycled.

DIY Paperboard Bookmarker: To make your own bookmarker you’ll need a pencil, ruler, scissors, and a clean paperboard box from your home recycling bin. Optional supplies include a hole puncher, corner punch, paper cutter or page trimmer, and ribbon. The finished bookmarker will have the graphics from the paperboard on one side and be either brown or white on the other. If you want to decorate your bookmarker you’ll also need paint, markers, glue, and scrap paper.

Choose clean, dry paperboard that has an interesting or colorful design to feature as the main image of the bookmarker. Flatten the paperboard box and tear open at the seams so it lays flat on the table. Use the ruler and a pencil to trace the shape of the bookmarker directly on the paperboard. A common size is six by two inches, however, you can make your bookmarker as long as you like. Carefully cut out the bookmaker with scissors or use a paper cutter for clean straight edges.

The basic bookmaker is now complete, but if you have one available use a corner punch to make the edges of the rectangular shape rounded. If you have a hole puncher you can punch a hole at the top to add a ribbon. Customize your new bookmarker by writing your favorite quote on the plain side, adding stickers, or making a collage with scrap construction paper. When you no longer want the bookmarker you can put it in your recycling bin with other mixed paper products.

DIY Paperboard Mini-Notebook: To make your upcycled notebook you’ll need scrap paper, paperboard, binder clips or paper clips, scissors, ruler, pencil, and a stapler. Optional tools you can use could include a paper cutter or trimmer, craft knife and cutting mat, corner punch, and a long-reach stapler. If you would like to decorate the notebook gather supplies like glue, washi tape, colorful tissue paper, and paint.

To begin, collect your paper scraps and paperboard from the recycling bin. The scrap paper could be used copy paper that is still blank on one side or left over sheets from school notebooks. Paperboard boxes should be clean and dry with an interesting design or colorful graphics. Evaluate the amount and sizes of scrap paper you have and decide on the notebook size you want to make.

An easy size to work with is four by four inches square. Start by breaking down the paperboard box and laying it flat on the table. Using the ruler and pencil draw a rectangle that is eight by four inches. This will be the front and back cover of the notebook. Carefully cut out the cover using scissors or a paper cutter for cleaner straight edges. Fold the cover in half so you have a four by four-inch square.

Next stack together about five sheets of scrap paper which will be the inside pages of the notebook. Arrange the pages in the order you want them to be in the notebook then secure them together with binder clips or paper clips. Lay the stack flat on the table and use the ruler and pencil to trace a rectangular area that also measures eight by four inches. Cut out each sheet to size then fold in half to match the fold of the cover.

Finally, nestle the stack of paper inside the cover, and then lay the notebook open flat so that the middle page is open. Secure the first half and second half of the notebook with paper clips or binder clips. Use a stapler to place two staples in the center of the notebook, one toward the top and the other towards the bottom, to secure the pages to the cover.

A long-reach stapler may be more convenient to staple larger notebooks. Fold the book shut using binder clips to flatten the seam overnight so the notebook lies flat when closed. Trim the edges of the scrap paper as needed, and use the corner punch to make rounded corners if desired.

Liz Swafford is the Recycling and Education Program Coordinator for the Dalton-Whitfield Solid Waste Authority.  Learn more about recycling in Whitfield County by visiting or call 706-278-5001.