Environmental Protection

Artificial Logs for Fireplaces Made from Grass Clippings

During this holiday season, people can use ecofriendly artificial logs made from grass clippings to create a warm and welcoming blaze in fireplaces.

U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) chemist Syed H. Imam and his colleagues have shown that lawn clippings can be mixed with other natural compounds to yield ecofriendly fire logs that burn brightly and evenly. The same formula can be used to produce pellets ready for the hopper of a pellet-burning stove, or for making fire-starting sticks for use with firewood at a campfire.

Mowing front and backyard lawns, plus fields at parks, schools and other city and suburban landscapes, creates tons of clippings that typically end up in landfills, Imam noted. Bio-based fire logs that Imam's team developed contain no petroleum-derived chemicals, so they burn cleaner, emitting fewer potentially polluting volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

Clippings make up about 20 to 60 percent of the composition of the logs by weight. About 40 to 80 percent is made up of plant-derived waxes or oils, referred to as binders. They add durability and help the logs, pellets, or sticks retain their shape. Binders also boost the energy value of the logs, and extend the burn time. Plant oils that lend color, aroma, and repel insects can be added to the log formulation. Imam has at least a dozen fragrant oils to suggest, such as cedar, eucalyptus, lavender, orange, peppermint, and tea tree.

Though the Albany team's focus was on clippings, the logs can also be made from agricultural harvest leftovers such as rice straw or cornstalks. Imam and his collaborators Roxana H. Imam, a former intern at the Albany center, and Jimmy C. Dorsey of New Venture Ideas, Inc., of Pittsburg, Calif., are seeking a patent for the invention.

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