Living in Paper offers an extensive introduction into "papercrete", an innovative construction material currently going through testing. The construction material's performance has several advantages over concrete and uses recycled paper from just about any source as the aggregate.An enormous amount of paper goes un-recycled each year in the United States (about 55% or 48 million tons), eventually making it to landfills. Industrial papers contain toxins such as inks, dyes, bleaches and adhesives which contaminate the surrounding soil and water. By using a mix of paper (50%-80%) and Portland cement, the paper fibers and the chemicals are encased and the surrounding environment is prevented from contamination. Fibrous mixes also leave tiny air pockets in the hardened material as the wet mix evaporates, making it more lightweight and better insulator.
Papercrete is actually a generic term for various mixes of fibrous material and cement or clay. Various mixes offer a wide range of properties. Fibrous concrete uses fibrous material such as paper with Portland cement and water. Padobe is a mix of paper, water, and earth with clay. Fidobe is like padobe, but uses fibrous materials.
Although there standards yet to be set, these mixes are being tested as they seek building code approval in the US. [by Che-Wei Wang]