In a Chicago suburb a young boy is earning money selling paper bricks to wood-stove owners in his neighborhood for around $2.50 a dozen. Scrounging the raw material - old newspapers for the most part - takes some time. Otherwise, he's got the manufacturing process down to about one a minute. By his calculations he's making well above minimum wage in this recycling effort. The buyers reckon they're getting a reasonable deal as well - 7,500 btu of energy per pound and a burning time of from 1 to 11/2 hours.
A group of Wisconsin Boy Scouts are running a small assembly line making the same kind of paper bricks that will be distributed to low-income senior citizens when the heating season returns.
Common to both operations is a sturdy, if unassuming, little press which turns out the bricks from paper pulp, made by soaking newspapers for 12 or more hours (you don't have to spend time tearing them up; they disintegrate naturally given a long enough soaking).
''Fyre Log,'' as the press is called, is imported into the United States by Chicago-based Prestige International Marketing Inc.
The Danes invented the press and it is selling rapidly in Europe where firewood is both expensive and not readily available. For similar reasons (much of their country is arid) the Australians love it.
''If you can save a tree as well as a buck, why not!'' is their reasoning.
Making the bricks with the Fyre Log is pretty simple: Leave old newspaper and/or corrugated cardboard soaking in water overnight (at least 12 hours so that the paper pulls apart readily). Stir the paper with a stick for a minute or two and it readily disintegrates into a pulp.
Scoop the goop (rubber gloves are a help) into the machine and press out the water. The block that remains is about the size of a masonry brick.
When fully dried (seven days on average) the bricks are an off-white color. They burn more readily than rolled paper logs because millions of tiny air spaces are left in the papier-mache blocks as the moisture evaporates.
In the average US home a week's collection of newspapers produces about 25 bricks. Sawdust or any other organic material can be included in the mix so long as a fraction more than half is paper. Paper pulp binds readily and too little in the mix will cause the bricks to crumble.
Fyre Log was shown at the recent wood-energy convention here. For further information write to: Prestige International Marketing Inc. 730 North Franklin, Suite 302, Chicago, Ill. 60610.