The paper you toss into your recycling bin could become the foundations of a home or a stylish kitchen countertop. Green building is getting a boost from paper waste.
First, scientists in India have found a way to make bricks using recycled paper mill waste. Their mixture contains 90% paper mill sludge and 10% cement. The concoction is mixed mechanically, then pressed into molds and cured in the sun. The resulting bricks are lighter and half the cost of traditional bricks. The process reduces greenhouse gas emissions and solid waste.
The Indian research team is currently searching for a sustainable way to waterproof the bricks so they may be used externally. Also, they’re experimenting with other types of waste products like cigarette butts and used tea.
Similarly, researchers in Spain have also created more environmentally friendly bricks using recycled paper. Byproducts from paper mills are mixed with sludge from waste water purification processes. This mixture is then combined with clay, pressurized, and formed into one long piece of material. The material is cut into bricks and fired in a kiln.
The results are mixed. While the bricks from the Spanish team have strong insulation properties, they tend to be weaker than their conventional counterparts. Thus, development for suitable applications are ongoing.
In 2006, All Paper Reycling, Inc., a company in Minnesota, began using a slurry of pre- and post-consumer paper waste to make a variety of home interiors. ShetkaSTONE, as the product became named, produced doors, benches, countertops, and more, and boasted a 100% sustainable life cycle. All waste created within the process is cycled back into the manufacturing process.
The technology has expanded since then. Consumers can now outfit their homes and businesses with several products from multiple manufacturers, each made primarily from recycled paper. Manufacturers like PaperStone, Richlite, ShetkaSTONE and Kliptech, make durable home materials using mixtures of recycled post-consumer paper and nonpetroleum-based resins and pigments. The power and possibility of recycled paper are limitless, and it starts with your recycling bin.