Waste from paper products doesn't start when you're finished with your paper towel or paper plate and throw it away. The production of those paper products creates a tremendous amount of waste in the form of sludge. It's estimated that the paper industry in the U.S. produces over 13.5 million tons of solid waste annually, and unfortunately, much of this sludge ends up in landfills.
Many eco-conscious entrepreneurs and scientists have been working to develop ways that paper sludge can be re-used instead of left in landfills. One of the most promising of these new methods comes from the University of Jaén in Spain, where paper sludge is being used to make bricks for construction projects. The bricks are made from a combination of paper sludge and cellulose by-products from the paper industry. These materials are mixed with clay and then baked at very high temperatures in a kiln.
While the researchers at the University of Jaén have been successful at producing bricks with their method, they report that more research and development is needed before the bricks can be used for actual construction projects. So far, the researchers have only been able to produce small bricks that are 1.18 by .39 by 2.36 inches in size, and although the strength of the bricks exceeds the minimums established by Spanish laws, their design must be stronger for use in large buildings.
The researchers are now working on improvements that may include waste from the manufacturing of beer, olive oil and biodiesel fuels. We'll be keeping an eye on this story and will provide updates as they become available.
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