Turning Trash Into Bricks

The Safety Fabrications team is dedicated to bringing our readers valuable and interesting information about all aspects of the construction industry and we’ve recently been taking a look at the humble building brick.  We’ve already covered the history of bricks and how bricks are made and we recently featured a rather cool story about heat dispersing bricks which can be used to help keep buildings cool – ideal for hot climates.  Today we’ve come across some more interesting facts about bricks – this time its bricks made from recycled trash!

Obviously we’re all aware that recycling our rubbish is preferable to dumping it into a landfill site but recycling it into something useful can often prove to be a bit of a challenge.  Well, researchers in India have been working on the problem and they’ve come up with a way of creating paper bricks from recycling waste.  The bricks are fabricated from 90% recycled paper mill waste and 10% ce3ment.  Professors Rahul Ralegoankar and Sachin Mandavgane from the Visvesvaraya National Institute of Technology (VNIT) in India have discovered that if these two materials are mechanically mixed and then poured into moulds they can be cured in the sun, which saves on the massive amounts of energy used to heat kilns as is done in traditional brick making.

The two professors started working on their idea after visiting a recycling plant and discovering that 15% of the paper taken in was left in a landfill as sludge.  They brought some of this slurry back to their lab and set to work, experimenting with the mixture to see if it could be turned into a building material.  In addition to paper mill waste, the pair have also incorporated the following materials into their bricks:

  • Textile effluent treatment plant (ETP) sludge
  • Fly ash
  • Cotton waste
  • Polystyrene fabric
  • Waste tea
  • Rice husk ash
  • Granulated blast furnace slag
  • Dried sludge from waste water treatment plants
  • Cigarette butts

Bricks made from the recycled waste materials are half the cost of traditional clay bricks and are much lighter in weight.  These bricks represent a huge benefit to the Indian construction market as it currently has a 30% deficit in supply.  If you’re wondering if such lightweight bricks have the strength and durability to be used in the building trade, you just need to take a look at the applications the bricks have been used for so far.  They’ve been successfully used in false ceilings and partition walls.  However, at present these bricks would not make the grade in the UK construction industry as they’re not waterproof.

However, we’re still in the early days of paper brick fabrication.  Right now the team that developed these bricks are working on a water-proof coating that would allow them to be used on the exterior of building projects – this would be a game-changer.  The team is also researching just how effective these bricks would be in earthquake prone regions.  While we don’t expect to see widespread use of paper bricks yet, it seems that with a little research and development, these bricks could one day be used in many more applications than at present.