Turning Paper Waste Into Firebricks

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    In this current day and age, we live in a very consumer driven society. Items you buy often come in multiple layers of excessive packaging that goes on to clutter up landfills. We buy, use, and throw away, with limited numbers of people who think in terms of reusing, recycling, or repurposing. As much of a problem as waste is in our modern world, it seems logical that more effort be made to control it or, even better, to embrace its survival advantages.

    Photo: Lonestar Farmstead

    Take paper products for example. So much of what we buy or passes through our hands comes in or with paper. Take a walk out to your mailbox and look inside; chances are you will have at least one catalog or piece of junk mail. For breakfast, have some eggs from a cardboard carton. At the end of a long day, come home and pull a bottle of beer out of a cardboard carrier. Going through a single day without touching some type of paper product that will wind up in the trash is quite a challenge.

    Photo: Yale.edu

    Although the wastefulness associated with paper packaging can be dismaying, it does have some survival advantages. Instead of throwing away all of this paper, it can be used to create firebricks that will not expire or go bad and can be used to create fire when you need it most. All it takes is an investment of a few dollars and a collection of paper products; foliage such as leaves can be used as well but paper coated in plastic should be avoided.

    Photo: Thrifty Fun

    To get started, you will need two sturdy, durable buckets of the same shape and size so that they will fit inside of one another. Five gallon buckets from your local big box store are a great option and can be purchased for very little expense. Take one of these buckets and punch several holes in it. There is no need to follow any sort of pattern when doing this as your only goal is to create ways for water to seep out through these holes. Once your holes are complete, start placing your paper waste into that bucket, then take your paper waste and stuff it into that bucket. Finally, place the bucket with holes into the solid bucket and fill with water.

    Photo: Mold-Making

    At this point, you will want to allow this paper mixture to absorb water until it becomes soft. You will then want to agitate it in order to further break it down to form a compact brick. The easiest and most efficient way to do this is with a mixing drill bit but a solid stuck and good old fashioned elbow grease works, too. Once you have agitated your paper products to form a pulp, it is time to pull the bucket with holes free of the solid bucket so that it can drain. It is then necessary to compact your paper pulp as it drains, a task for which a makeshift press will come in handy. This can be any heavy item that fits into your bucket and can effectively compress the paper pulp. It is even possible to cut a piece of plywood in the shape of your bucket, place it inside, and stand on it until the job is done.

    Photo: Funky Time Art

    After you have emptied the excess water, turn your bucket upside down and tap it until the contents fall out. What you should have is a neat, round brick, albeit a wet one. This will take time to dry; how long depends on your climate, but if you need to hurry the process along, it can be cut into chunks for faster drying. Once pieces are completely dry, store them until they are needed, then simply ignite and enjoy your fire!

    Photo: Self Sufficiency Magazine

    Do you have any experience making firebricks such as these? Are there other methods you prefer? Let us know in the comments!

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