Paper Bricks - Free Fuel From Recycled Paper




Introduction: Paper Bricks - Free Fuel From Recycled Paper

About: I am off to college in the fall to study Math. I love Spanish, old cars and 80's music.

Even those who try to go paper-free still have lots of paper around the house.  This is especially true if you are a student.  Recycling is a great way to dispose of it, but why not turn it into something that you can use and enjoy.  This makes a great project for a rainy day.  While the components are simple, this project will go much faster if you have multiple people helping.  There are different jobs that can be done at the same time.  Do not attempt this if you only have a little bit of paper.  We used several big boxes full of paper.

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Update: Due to the numerous suggestions, I am currently working on an improved version.  Stay tuned!

Step 1: What You Will Need

I organized the things that you will need into categories. 

Other Supplies
     Paper Shredder (crosscut preferred)
     Plastic Project buckets (at least 2)
     plastic tub
     water scoop
     pan (whatever shape you want your bricks to be)
     piece of plywood to dry bricks

Step 2: Prepare the Paper

This is one step of the whole production process, but it can be done almost the whole time.  First you need to shred your paper.  Newspaper is ok, but make sure that there is no plastic at all in the paper.  A crosscut shredder works the best, because the smaller pieces are easier to deal with when it is time to blend it up.  When you fill your shredder with paper, empty them into a plastic project bucket.  Stomp the shreds down in the bucket to fit as many as you can.  When the buckets are full, add enough water to cover the top of the shreds.  If you let the shreds soak for a few hours, it will be easier to blend them.  However, this is not necessary. 

Step 3: Blend the Paper

I used a partially broken magic bullet to blend my paper into pulp.  You can use whatever blender you have.  I wanted to use one that I don't use for food.  It is ok to use a blender for paper and food.   Add some paper pulp and water to the blender, and turn it on.  You will need to experiment with the ratio of water to paper to find what blends the easiest.

Step 4: Strain the Paper

Use a colander to strain off the excess water.  This will save drying time, plus you can reuse the water!

Step 5: Form the Bricks

Put paper pulp into a baking pan that you aren't too fond of.  Squeeze out the excess water to save drying time.  Slap the pan down to remove the brick.  Put the bricks on a piece of plywood, and put all of the bricks somewhere warm.  A closed off garage works well in the summer, as it acts as an oven.  The drying time of the bricks depends on the size of the bricks, but mine took about 2-3 weeks. 

Step 6: Use the Bricks

Wait until the bricks are completely dry.  They will be surprisingly light.  These can be burned in any normal fire.  They don't last quite as long as a real log, and they do make some ash.  But hey, they are free and fun to make.  We like to take these camping and toss them in every once in a while.  Enjoy!

Note:  You can really improve efficiency if you have different people at each station (shredding, blending, straining, forming), but that is not required.

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148 Discussions

I don't think this is environmentally sound. The electricity used in blending the paper and the wear and tear on a plastic blender which would eventually have to be disposed of tend to offset any environmental benefits.

Can anyone tell me if this were taken on as a fairly large scale operation is there any environmental concern caused by disposing of the water on occassion...are there any issues caused by the breakdown of glue, resins, or ink waste? If anyone has done this as a business model I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you

1 reply

I suppose that, it would be similar to a paper mill?

Business Opportunity: Industrial paper dust is a problem for lots of factories. They have to use a dust collector to keep it out of the air and then typically bail it, but it's too fine for recyclers to be interested in. The bales usually end up in a landfill. If anyone's interested in making lots of these, the dust should be a steady, free source that would cut out the shredding/blending work. If you're in the Birmingham area, and would like some to try, just reply to my post.

5 replies

I am nearby in Newnan, GA. What kind of quantities are you talking about and do you have ideas about how this could be used as a business opp.

Matthew, I'm out of Texas, but for proper quantities, would be will to send a trailer out there. Curious, do you know what your paper content is (primarily your pulp to clay ratio)? The primary problem with using paper waste for fuel is the high clay content in cheaper paper products, and want to avoid that in the system I'm looking at setting up.

hi there, do you have loads of this dust, and are you looking to get it collected from you for free on a regular basis.

my names paul edmunds

This sounds like a fun project. I didn't read all the comments so I don't know if it was suggested, but I wonder how a paint mixer bit would work for blending the pulp. We have one we used to use for making liquid laundry detergent (we make dry now :) ) They are made to mix paint in 5 gal pails and could probably do a nice job, especially if you soak for a few days. (I'd prefer that to shredding, personally.) Our newspaper printer place always has lots of extra newsprint.

For those who are interested in alternative wood sources for burning -imagine having to twist and twist "logs" of hay for heat. the Ingalls family had to do that in Laura Ingalls Wilder's book "The Long Winter". It was that or freeze to death. It is a true story. 30+ logs a day. Good book!

2 replies

I used a large metal paint mixer and ran into the problem of burning out drills. It does work, but I would recommend using a strong cabled drill that you're not too attached to (financially).

will this create a build up of soot ? is it entirely safe for indoor use when the fireplace is pretty much the main source of heat ?

1 reply

Largely dependent on what type of paper you are using, and what type of burner.

I have a lot of waste in the form of wood chips & fine wood dust, as well as regular sheddings from a paper bark, and I am regularly breaking down small - medium branches. I use similar methods but I mix in all the wood products. The paper part of it is more used as a bonding agent.

I have made bricks with shredded newspaper, cardboard, and junk mail. I also added sawdust that I got for free from a local woodworking outfit. You can burn them by themselves, and they do put off heat, although you will get no flames, they smolder.

That's an awful lot of work when all you have to do is take your papers and roll them into logs by hand. Use cheap masking tape to hold the roll in place and just stack them in boxes for use in your wood stove, fireplace or campfire. Use with or without the interspersing wood. They are great in the wood stove and make an excellent adjunct to wood logs! I actually collect unsold newspapers from local convenience stores (these are free) and I roll logs while watching TV. I use them to heat my home along with wood logs. they burn hot and stretch my wood pile so it lasts longer. so simple without all the excess work! :-)

1 reply

Do they put off a lot of smoke? And can you use them instead of wood in a fireplace or are they mainly for outdoor use? I'm thinking of buying a press that makes newspaper logs from Lehmann's, it's inexpensive and it looks easy to use.

Is there any way to speed up the drying process, like a food dehydrator or oven on low heat?

1 reply

one way is to make a plaster of paris box. make a box any size you want with 2 inch sides. Mix up some plaster of paris, it is cheap and pour it in the box and let dry. It dries fast. Then put the bricks on this. It sucks up the water and speed the drying process. Flip the bricks if you want