Energy and environmentally intensive wood-pulp paper may now have a revolutionary, sustainable and unexpected competitor: paper made of stone.
While there's a huge shift to digital in the publishing world, the paper industry is still the fourth largest industrial energy user worldwide. It's not only a large carbon dioxide emitter, but as toxic pollutants - such as dioxins and sulphur dioxide - enter the water bodies surrounding paper mills, paper production poses a health threat not only to those living in their vicinity, but also the the wider aquatic ecosystem.
Deforestation is of course another major impact, as trees are felled (in some places illegally) to extract the necessary fibre, and to make room for production infrastructure.
But an Australian company has been producing paper that does not require trees. Indeed no timber, water, chlorine or acids are required in their production method, which also has only a third of the carbon footprint of conventional paper production.
Its key ingredient? Stone.
Karst Stone Paper uses abundantly available calcium carbonate - essentially stone - to make their paper product. They explain:
“We repurpose waste stone produced by the mining industry and construction industry, crush it into a powder, and combine it with a non-toxic, recyclable binding agent to make stone paper.”
A Smaller Footprint And a Much Stronger Product
According to their website, one ton of traditional wood-pulp paper requires around 18 tall trees and 2770 litres of water. Moreover, even when traditional paper is recycled (a process which is possible up to 7 times), additional virgin fibres are still required each time, making paper-recycling not a real long-term sustainable solution.
In comparison, stone paper requires not a single drop of water and not a single tree, and it also generates no toxic by-products or waste. Not only is its footprint much smaller (60% smaller according to their website), but the end product is paper which is actually smoother, whiter, and even tear and water-proof.
Also, stone paper products can be recycled together with traditional paper products, while burning them simply reduces them back to calcium carbonate (chalk powder), which can be further utilised. Or they can biodegrade naturally in nine to twelve months. Although to be completely clean and safe at this point, the inks used to write on them would also have to be environmentally friendly.
Stone paper products do sound revolutionary and I am certainly keen to try them out, although with their warehouses being based in the US and Australia, shipping them around the globe certainly won't do much to help their carbon footprint.
Here is a short video from Karst Stone Paper: