This Australian company is making notebooks out of stones, repurposed from construction sites.
Karst Stone Paper
Karst Stone Paper is making paper out of stone, just as its name suggests. And it argues that’s more eco-friendly than cutting down trees.
The Australian company was started with $30,000, savings that co-founders Jon Tse and Kevin Garcia had been stashing away. During their holiday in Taiwan, they came across so-called ‘stone paper.’ Tse explains that its primary use was for food packaging because it could keep water and moisture out.
“This piqued our interest and we went to to the south of Taiwan to a city called Tainan to visit the original creator of stone paper,” Tse recalls. “This was basically our lightbulb moment where we thought it was crazy that no one had tried to disrupt the toxic and enormous traditional pulp paper industry with a much more sustainable and eco-friendly alternative in stone paper.”
They returned back to Sydney and started making notebooks, primarily A5 hardcover notebooks, using the stone paper. The feel of the notebooks was nearly identical to paper made from wood pulp, though Tse suggests that the paper is even smoother, without the wood fibers running through.
In the past two years, they’ve sold over 70,000 units, across 80 countries, though more than two-thirds of their customers are Americans. Big companies, interested in this B corp’s vision, have also ordered books for their employees and events: Facebook, WeWork, Dermalogica, Tse says, and TED are among their clientele.
But what is the fundamental difference between tree-based papers and stone paper? Karst’s papers come from waste marble and limestone, he explains. These are housed at construction facilities and recycled into paper; otherwise, they would sit in a landfill, he says. “Stone paper is made from recycled materials and is itself recyclable.”
The primary material for their paper is calcium carbonate, a material that is found in rocks in the Earth and sold over the country to help with digestion. It’s available in abundance, he notes; thus extracting it does not put any stress on the environment.
Unlike pulp-based materials, stone paper uses less water, he adds. “Each metric tonne of stone paper requires 27 gallons of water, which is circulated in a closed system and reused.”
Plus, the company claims that it doesn’t produce any waste, and all materials can be repurposed into the next batch of stone paper if something is left, because stone is infinitely recyclable without losing quality.
“There are not really any downsides environmentally. It’s more sustainable in every way [to paper],” Tse argues. “From carbon emissions and footprint to water use to, ofcourse, no trees or deforestations, and no acids or bleaches at all.”
The biggest challenge is not the manufacturing, he says, but educating the public about stone paper. “We are all so used to buying normal pulp paper products and only a drop in the ocean know about stone paper so it will take a lot more time and resources to educate the general public on this. Fortunately a lot of people these days are much more conscious about their purchases and therefore this mindset shift has really helped us grow as more and more people are open-minded and even seeking and seeking out more sustainable options.”
Karst’s products are in 100 retailers in the US, UK, and Australia; Tse and Garcia plan to expand that footprint exponentially in the coming years. There are some benefits to their stone-based papers as well: it’s harder to tear apart and more resistant to water. That’s thanks to the resin on the pages, which does introduce one downside: the books should ideally be recycled, not thrown in the compost or yard can. That said, if it does go to a landfill, Tse says that the materials will break down in a year.
And if anyone’s wondering what their take is on trees in general, the duo have actually partnered with One Tree Planted to plant trees, on behalf of the company.
So is stone better than wood? Or simply one more option to make our lives a bit more eco-friendly?