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Nanaimo non-profit working on recycling books into fire logs

Habitat for Humanity Mid-Vancouver Island tasked with keeping 25,000 books out of the landfill

A Nanaimo non-profit is developing a recycling process that converts damaged and landfill-destined books into logs for the fire.

Jeff Krafta, Habitat for Humanity Mid-Vancouver Island executive director, came up with the idea to cut up the books, separate the binding from the pages, shred the paper, convert it into pulp, then dry and compress it into logs for use in a fireplace or campfire.

Books such as encyclopedias are “notoriously hard to recycle,” said Krafta, but seeing as some are already made with recycled paper, why not recycle again?

“I did a little research online and came up with a rudimentary plan, basically just kind of figured out how to design and build a prototype machine out of wood that’s a hand machine,” he said. “I’m using a bottle jack for the compression to create some of these fire logs. They actually work really, really well.”

Krafta said eventually the plan is to sell the logs, although that is still a work in progress.

“Right now, there’s too much inconsistency in the product … some are 16 inches long, some are 14 inches long … so that’s the next step, is creating the step-by-step process for the consistency and the production level so that it’s viable.”

Keeping the product as chemical-free as possible is another consideration with a product intended to be burned, he said.

“There’s nothing unnatural and we only use black-and-white printed paper. We don’t use any glossy kind of paper, color paper, clay-glazed paper, so there’s a certain element of books that still cannot be used,” Krafta said.

Testing for carbon emissions is something on the wish list, but that will happen “down the road,” he said, as he doesn’t have the proper tools at this point.

“Quite often what people complain about is the smell of the wood stove and the smoke it creates – these create almost no smoke,” he said. “I foresee there potentially being people concerned over the carbon emissions, but I would say it’s no different than a wood stove or a campfire or burning dry firewood.”

Habitat for Humanity Mid-Vancouver Island’s efforts were assisted by $60,000 from the Regional District of Nanaimo’s zero waste recycling fund money in 2023, with $80,000 granted in 2024 to further the work.

Currently, a chop saw is used to cut up books. Krafta envisions a system that would allow multiple books to be cut up at once, an automated barrel roller to mix the pulp, and a hydraulic press to apply consistent pressure on every log.

Ben Geselbracht, RDN solid waste management select committee chairperson, said the zero waste funding is intended for projects like this.

“In our solid waste management plan, waste-to-energy is sort of the lowest of the upcycling that can occur. Some products are really hard to deal with, [and] this is a way that they’re able to get a bit of value out of the paper…” he said. “It’s a necessary step in a larger picture of looking how to really keep those materials in use.”

Habitat for Humanity has reached out to organizations in Nanaimo to assist in the effort, including the Rotary Club of Nanaimo, which hosts a used book sale twice a year.

In an e-mail, Janeane Coutu, Rotary book sale committee co-chairperson, said her organization contributed to the effort with four pallets of books last April.

“Our Rotary club hopes to supply Habitat for Humanity with all the books they need going forward on this book-recycling project,” she said. “It’s a win-win for us to dispose of our inventory of unusable/unsellable books, and to provide Habitat with the raw materials they require for this endeavour.”

As a condition of the grant, the RDN is requiring 25,000 books be recycled this year.

RELATED: RDN rewards recycling innovation with grant money

Karl Yu

About the Author: Karl Yu

I joined Black Press in 2010 and cover education, court and RDN. I am a Ma Murray and CCNA award winner.
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