From rock to paper  

From rock to paper  

People have been making paper in one form or another for at least 2000 years, and the art of paper-making has been through several technological shifts, most notably the switch from cotton and linen fibres as a raw material to wood pulp, a development that took place in the mid-nineteenth century. Recently, another approach has emerged - paper made from stone.

Companies involved in the production of paper from stone claim that it offers significant environmental benefits. Parax Stone Paper, a British manufacturer of the paper, says that, in addition to no trees being chopped down, no water, bleach or acid is used in the production of stone paper, and that the manufacturing process is half as energy- and emissions-intensive as traditional paper-making. Compared to making paper from wood pulp, the stone paper process also consumes less water, and produces less effluent.

The raw material for the paper - calcium carbonate (chalk) - is recycled mining waste, which in principle can be recycled into more stone paper at the end of the product's life. For its stone paper product, Parax won a 2013 Green Apple Award as a UK Green Champion in the Paper and Packaging category. The Green Apple Awards are given out by The Green Organisation, a non-profit group, and the scheme is one of the United Kingdom's main awards for environmental good practice.

Other companies offering stone paper products include Italian brand Ogami, which produces stone notebooks, and a number of US and Asia-Pacific companies - the stone paper technology was developed in Taiwan. Proponents of the paper also note that it is smoother, whiter and more durable that paper from wood pulp. Stone paper is also waterproof.

Some questions have been raised about the environmental credentials of stone paper, however. The product is made from 80% calcium carbonate, but this is bound together by plastic - high-density polyethylene (HDPE), which is produced from hydrocarbons. HDPE is recyclable, but it must be recycled with plastics, not with traditional paper, something that consumers will need to be aware of if the stone paper is to be correctly managed when it becomes waste. Stone paper could be a notable eco-innovation - but more analysis is likely to be needed to understand its overall environmental impact.