While recycling trash is preferable to simply chucking refuse into the dump, the process still creates tons of byproducts that end up making their way to the landfill. Fortunately, Professors Rahul Ralegaonkar and Sachin Mandavgane of the Visvesvaraya National Institute of Technology in India (VNIT) have developed a way to create paper bricks from recycling waste. Made from 90% recycled paper mill waste (RPMW) and 10% cement, the mixture is mechanically mixed and pressed into molds and then cured in the sun. The brilliant recycled building material is low-cost means of eking more efficiency out of an already good practice.
After visiting a recycling plant in 2009, Mandavgane and Ralegaonkar discovered that 15% of the paper taken in was left to sit in a landfill as sludge. After bringing the slurry back to their labs at VNIT, they experimented with a mixture that would make a good building material. Their bricks are made from 90% recycled paper mill waste that has already been used successfully in false ceilings and partition walls. In addition to paper waste, the team has incorporated textile effluent treatment plant (ETP) sludge, cigarette butts, fly ash, cotton waste, polystyrene fabric, waste tea, rice husk ash, granulated blast furnace slag, and dried sludge from a waste water treatment plant.
“Recycle Paper Mills (RPM) contribute 30 percent of [the] total pulp and paper mill segment in India. With 85 percent being the average efficiency of RPM, 5 per cent waste (RPMW) is produced annually. RPMW which otherwise is land filled has been utilized to make construction bricks that serve a purpose of solid waste management, new revenue generation and earning carbon credits,” says Mandavgane.
Blocks made from these cast-off materials are half the cost of normal bricks and much lighter. Such inexpensive bricks would come as a great benefit to the Indian construction market, which has a 30% deficit in supply. The team is presently working on a waterproof coating for the bricks (so they can be used on housing exteriors) and determining the material’s efficacy in earthquake prone areas.