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Lawn clippings used to make eco-friendlier fireplace logs

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November 16, 2012

A chemist is making cleaner-burning fireplace logs from lawn clippings (Photo: Shutterstoc...

A chemist is making cleaner-burning fireplace logs from lawn clippings (Photo: Shutterstock)

Every year, untold tons of lawn clippings end up in landfills – or at best, in compost heaps. US Department of Agriculture chemist Syed H. Imam, however, has come up with what could be a better use for them. He’s been making them into fireplace logs, that have some big advantages over conventional artificial logs.

Compressed grass clippings actually only make up about 20 to 60 percent of the logs, by weight. Much of the rest is binder material, made from commonly-available plant-based waxes or oils. These binders not only allow the logs to hold their shape, but they also boost their energy value and extend their burn time. Additional plant oils can be added to create pleasing aromas, or even to keep bugs away when burned outdoors.

Potassium chlorate accounts for two percent of the logs’ weight. It’s a mineral oxidizer that allows them to ignite quickly, while also keeping the color and height of their flames consistent. One thing that the logs don’t contain is petroleum-based chemicals, so they reportedly burn much more cleanly than regular man-made logs.

Additionally, unlike many existing products, their production process doesn’t require large amounts of heat. A temperature of about 45ºC (113ºF) is sufficient to dry the grass sufficiently, and to soften the wax so that it can be mixed in thoroughly.

The technology could also be applied to agricultural waste such as cornstalks or rice straw, and could be used to make other combustible products like pellets for wood-burning stoves, or fire-starting sticks for campfires.

Imam and his research partners are now seeking a patent for their process. Green Log already offers fireplace logs made from purpose-grown Giant King Grass, although they’re rather pricey, and require the buyer to pay a substantial shipping fee.

Source: United States Department of Agriculture

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away.   All articles by Ben Coxworth
7 Comments

LOL 2% potassium chlorate. I don't think people will be making these at home.

Michael Mantion
16th November, 2012 @ 05:21 pm PST

Regular "Duraflame" fire logs that you can get almost anywhere in the US already switched over to plant oils/waxes away from petroleum products. So really the question is whether grass clippings are better than wood fiber recovered from industrial wood processing waste.

I doubt that it burns better or cleaner.

Better to compost the clippings and use less fertilizer on your lawn.

Siegfried Gust
19th November, 2012 @ 03:40 am PST

Sorry, I should say that the "Duarflame Xtra" logs are made without petroleum products, I'm not sure about their other products.

Siegfried Gust
19th November, 2012 @ 05:11 am PST

Compost is just just as good for the environment. My thoughts

Zenzo Mtungwa
19th November, 2012 @ 08:03 am PST

That's it, burn 'em and add to the CO2 in the atmosphere. Leave 'em on the ground I say. Save work and let 'em act as mulch and compost. Better for the soil.

JAT
19th November, 2012 @ 10:00 am PST

@JAT: I may be mistaken, but rotting organic material can leach the stored CO2 as well... thought it can be less than burning, of course. Anyone have that stat?

matthew.rings
19th November, 2012 @ 05:54 pm PST

Fireplaces are stupid. They don't heat your house effectively, just push house air out the chimney. All my grass clippings go in the garden.

Captain Obvious
19th November, 2012 @ 07:29 pm PST
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