I recently came across a neat way to recycle newspaper by turning it into briquettes for burning in your fireplace or wood stove. While there are many different techniques I’ve found, this one seems to be the simplest.
You’ll need a stack of newspapers, two five gallon buckets, water, plywood, bricks or free weights, a ruler, a drill, and a saw.
Take the newspaper and tear it into strips. Only use the actual newsprint pages, discard any of the glossy ads. Fill one of the buckets about halfway with water. You can add one tablespoon of bleach or dish soap if you want as that will speed up the process going forward. Add newspaper strips to the water until it is more newspaper than water. Agitate it with a plunger or stick for a bit to make sure all of the newspaper is soaked through. Let it sit for an hour or so. The idea here is that the newspaper will break down a bit into pulp. Bleach or dish soap will accelerate that process.
While you’re waiting, take the second bucket and drill 1/8″ holes in the sides, going to about 5″ from the bottom. Drill a lot of holes, shoot for one about every 2″ in something of a grid pattern. Do not drill holes in the bottom of the bucket, just the sides.
Take the bucket and turn it upside down onto the plywood. I’d not use any plywood thinner than maybe 3/8″. Using a pencil, trace around the bucket on the plywood. Take the bucket off and measure the thickness of the lip of the bucket. Draw another circle on the plywood, inside the first circle, accounting for the thickness of the lip on the bucket, plus a hair more. The idea here is you’re going to make a disk of plywood that will fit inside the bucket.
Cut out the disk with your saw. A jigsaw will probably work best, if you have access to one. Sand down the edges a bit if you’d like.
Remove the soaked newspaper from the first bucket and place it in the bottom of the second bucket. Fill it to six or seven inches from the bottom. Place your plywood disk over the newsprint and slowly push it down by hand. Then, add a few bricks or weights to push it down further. Let this sit for a half hour or so. This all serves to squeeze as much water as possible from the newspaper.
Remove the weights or bricks, then turn the bucket upside down to let the plywood and newspaper briquette to slide out. Allow the briquette to dry for several hours. When it is done, it should feel crinkly to the touch.
If you have extra buckets, you could make 3-4 or more at a time. You might also consider staining or painting your plywood disk to protect it from the long-term effects of the water it will be exposed to during this process.
If you have access to quantities of sawdust, consider adding some of that to your newspaper “soup.” But be sure the sawdust isn’t from pressure treated lumber.