I am brewing on an idea where instead of cursing and throwing all our physical junk mail in the paper recycling bin, we process it into pellets to be burned in our fireplace as free fuel.

Before I start I would like to run the numbers but I am having a hard time finding the actual effect of burning said paper.

According to this page regular birch firewood will burn at 14 million BTU per cubic meter (20 per chord). What is the comparable amount for waste paper?

  • $\begingroup$ I believe Japan does this with a significant amount of their trash. $\endgroup$
    – Kyranstar
    Dec 2, 2015 at 5:56
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ Is this question on-topic here? A better place would be Sustainable living $\endgroup$
    – Jan Doggen
    Dec 2, 2015 at 7:55
  • $\begingroup$ You should also investigate what's in the ink and where that goes when recycling or burning. $\endgroup$
    – Jan Doggen
    Dec 2, 2015 at 7:57
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Note that your stoveis likely designed for wood (paper is hotter), that paper has a far higher ash content, high gloss paper contains boron as a flame suppressor, ink may be an emission problem and some jurisdictions outright forbid domestic paper incineration. $\endgroup$
    – mart
    Dec 3, 2015 at 7:55
  • $\begingroup$ ^ "a ream of paper is enough to heat the average US house for 15 weeks." lol - there's something way off about the math on this one. 500 sheets of paper heating a house for months is idiotic. $\endgroup$
    – user183896
    Nov 21, 2018 at 1:02

1 Answer 1


About 12 million BTU, or 3.5 MWh.

I searched for paper btu and got loads... of... hits.

Seems like 7000 BTU/lb is a decent starting point, or $1.6 \times 10^7\ \mathrm{J/kg}$. If we say a ream of letter-size paper weighs about 5 lb, then we can calculate that paper yields about $1.2 \times 10^{10}\ \mathrm{J/m^3}$ when burned — enough to heat the average US house for 15 weeks.


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.