"An alternative to traditional energy sources for heat is briquettes," says Sanu Kaji Shrestha of the Foundation of Sustainable Technologies (FoST), which has been advocating production and usage of briquettes since 2004. A briquette is a block of combustible material that has the same utility as firewood. It looks sturdy but is very light. Small-sized briquettes are used for cooking, grilling as well as in fireplaces. Larger briquettes are often used for industrial purposes. While charcoal briquettes are well known, the uniqueness of the briquettes Shrestha is talking about lies in the fact that that they are made from waste materials.
Fuel briquettes can be produced from agricultural and commercial residues including paper, sawdust, scrap wood, dried leaves and weeds, rice husks, and kitchen waste. All biodegradable waste, in fact.
The process of producing a briquette is quite simple. The waste is ground and soaked for a while. A specially designed press is then used to compress the mash into compact blocks. A ready-to-use briquette forms after the block is allowed to dry in the sun. Drying can take 2-7 days depending on the weather.
A two-inch thick briquette six inches in diameter can burn for about 40 minutes. Shrestha says that a briquette emits 70 per cent less smoke than wood, thus reducing indoor air pollution. His organisation, FoST, is currently designing special stoves for briquettes and is researching methods to improve the technology.
FoST has already given training courses on briquette production and usage in 40 districts. A briquette pressing machine costs Rs 7,000 and can produce over 20 kilos of briquettes a day. Briquettes are priced at Rs 20 a kilo. FoST has been encouraging its trainees to start commercial production so that they can generate income
from briquettes. Shrestha has shared this technology in Afghanistan, Cyprus, Cambodia, India and the Philippines.
On the one hand, briquettes made from waste help in garbage management. On the other, they decrease the consumption of wood and other fuels. Shrestha says: "This is an eco-friendly technology that has double benefits."