A unique sustainability story: paper out of stone?
The Stone Paper Company
The concept of making paper out of stone is still something many paper and packaging buyers are coming to grips with. Paper out of stone? The first step for the managers at the Stone Paper Company was convincing people that stone paper was not a magic trick! The second challenge was telling Rockstock’s unique environmental and sustainability story.
Stone Paper Company Director Alan Good’s goal is to use fewer resources, less energy, fewer emissions, no harmful chemicals, and to produce products that have social and end-user benefits.
Stone paper, also known as rich mineral paper, achieves all these things: stone paper uses no tree fibre, saving 20 trees per tonne of paper produced. It uses no water, saving 7,480 gallons of fresh water per tonne of paper produced, reduces or eliminates chemical waste, and reduces solid and air waste.
But because the paper uses no wood pulp, it could not qualify for easily recognisable ecolabels such as the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) or Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC).
Instead, stone paper is produced using waste marble from the cutting of tiles and pieces that are too small or the wrong shape to make a tile using solar energy and electricity. These pieces are ground into calcium carbonate (also used in tofu, antacid, baby powder and toothpaste).
No bleaches, acids, alkali, or other potentially dangerous ingredients are used in its production, as the paper gets its colour from a high concentration of calcium carbonate, which is naturally white.
At its end-of-life, Rockstock is photo-degradable with the sun’s UV light. The paper simply cracks and breaks down, leaving only calcium carbonate. This process takes one year for stone paper, and up to three years for board.
Alan says many clients ask if Rockstock is biodegradable, without understanding the paper would need additives to attract insects and organisms to consume it: the stone itself cannot biodegrade on its own, and insects and other organisms have no desire to eat it and break it down.
Rockstock can be recycled into new paper any number of times. It can also be added to other resins to make fence posts, pallets, wrapping paper, injection-moulded components and many other products.
Rockstock paper contains 81% calcium carbonate and modified high-density polyethylene. Rockstock paper can be included in two recycling waste streams: soft plastics and the #2 plastics recycling stream. It can also be burned in a furnace without toxic smoke or damage to the furnace.
Alan’s challenge was how to convince buyers of stone paper’s unique environmental benefits.
Alan wanted packaging experts and buyers to understand immediately the environmental benefits of Rockstock without having to become chemistry experts.
He decided on Environmental Choice New Zealand’s ecolabel as trustworthy proof of environmental preferability and as the only New Zealand label recognised by the Global Ecolabelling Network.
Rockstock has qualified for the EC-60 Paper Products ecolabel.
To comply with the standards for these ecolabels, Rockstock must show environmental best-practice across the life-cycle of its product. This includes criteria for sourcing of virgin raw materials to ensure they are not from environments that are protected for biological and/or social reasons. It also includes strict criteria limiting hazardous substances. Adhesives and any binding agents are carefully regulated, and bleaching is not allowed. Waste management, energy efficiency, packaging and recyclability of the product are audited and monitored. Products must also decrease emissions to air and water and minimise the use of harmful chemicals.
Rockstock did not require any changes to its product manufacturing or finishing to qualify for these ecolabels. In Taiwan, where the stone paper is manufactured, the process and product has received many certifications and tests including ISO9001, ISO14001, Cradle2 Cradle Global, and many others including an Energy Globe National Award from UNEP.
“We believe the ECNZ certification adds further credibility and provides confidence for the New Zealand buyer that our product that has been researched and audited to qualify as an environmentally superior and sustainable product,” says Alan.
The team at Rockstock is committed to finding new ways to use stone paper in everyday life. Because Rockstock is waterproof, greaseproof, freezer grade, nontoxic, food grade, and has the environmental benefits described above, its versatility lends itself to many uses.
Stone paper products can replace many products—particularly plastic products— that are not eco-friendly or sustainable. The team has developed a wide range of new products that includes:
Finished products that are better for the environment include: notebooks, notepads, books, leaflets, brochures, maps, charts, tray mats, fish trays, plates and trays, bags, carry bags, pouches, labels, tags, tickets, posters, marketing material, liners, lidding, boxes, in-mould labelling and many more.
Happy customers include Te Matuku Oysters, which use Rockstock products in its packaging, from stickers for coffee cups, and oyster pottles to wrapping paper for fresh fish.
Pictured: Alan Good is the Director of the Stone Paper Company and visited the Taiwan manufacturing facility.
Rockstock is a revolutionary paper product made from stone. While the paper is manufactured in Taiwan, the Auckland-based Stone Paper Company represents Rockstock in New Zealand, Australia, and Pacific region.