Every year, untold tons of lawn clippings end up in landfills – or at best, in compost heaps. US Department of Agriculture chemist Syed H. Imam, however, has come up with what could be a better use for them. He’s been making them into fireplace logs, that have some big advantages over conventional artificial logs.

Compressed grass clippings actually only make up about 20 to 60 percent of the logs, by weight. Much of the rest is binder material, made from commonly-available plant-based waxes or oils. These binders not only allow the logs to hold their shape, but they also boost their energy value and extend their burn time. Additional plant oils can be added to create pleasing aromas, or even to keep bugs away when burned outdoors.

Potassium chlorate accounts for two percent of the logs’ weight. It’s a mineral oxidizer that allows them to ignite quickly, while also keeping the color and height of their flames consistent. One thing that the logs don’t contain is petroleum-based chemicals, so they reportedly burn much more cleanly than regular man-made logs.

Additionally, unlike many existing products, their production process doesn’t require large amounts of heat. A temperature of about 45ºC (113ºF) is sufficient to dry the grass sufficiently, and to soften the wax so that it can be mixed in thoroughly.

The technology could also be applied to agricultural waste such as cornstalks or rice straw, and could be used to make other combustible products like pellets for wood-burning stoves, or fire-starting sticks for campfires.

Imam and his research partners are now seeking a patent for their process. Green Log already offers fireplace logs made from purpose-grown Giant King Grass, although they’re rather pricey, and require the buyer to pay a substantial shipping fee.