Stone Paper Products-good or bad for environment.

“Stone Paper” – Good or Bad for the Environment?

  • Imagine printing on “stone.” That’s exactly what some marketers are promoting, and they are making broad environmental claims about their product. We investigated to see if it all makes sense. Using trade names such as Terraskin®, ViaStone, and FiberStone®, the “stone papers” contain 80% Calcium Carbonate (basically pulverized marble or limestone) and 20% High Density Polyethylene (HDPE—the same plastic that’s used in milk jugs and plastic bags).
    Here’s what we know:
  • While about 80% of the paper is made from a mineral, fully 20% is plastic. This means for every ton of stone paper produced, probably over 500 pounds of non-renewable fossil fuels are used (mostly natural gas derivatives) as a raw material to make the polyethylene.
  • Calcium Carbonate is a mostly benign substance, and is already used as a brightener in many papers (though in much lower concentrations). As with any mining, however, there is some environmental impact to consider.
  • We can’t find substantiation of claims that the manufacture of these papers is any more energy or resource efficient, but it could be some life cycle analyses will be forthcoming on the subject.
  • Stone papers may not end up impeding the normal recycling stream of paper, because the mineral and plastic particles will probably be washed out into the recycling sludge. However, it seems unlikely that the mineral and plastic components of stone papers will actually be recycled and become new paper.

In sum, stone papers seem like more of a novelty than a serious technology to lower the impact of paper manufacturing. Practically speaking, it is likely this paper won’t be used more than once. And—we have to admit—we bristle at the thought of replacing recycled fiber with plastic.

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