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What is Stone Paper?

Stone paper is a term that describes a number of different formulas for making paper that have one key ingredient in common: the paper is made primarily of stone rather than tree fiber. Stone paper has a number of properties that makes it a remarkable alternative to traditional options, and a few downsides that should be taken into consideration before purchasing.

Stone paper, true to its name, is made primarily of stone, and could be made on the tailings of miners seeking out precious metals such as gold and silver. What is commonly referred to as junk stone and thrown away could very well be used to produce paper, all without harming a single tree to do so.

Here is a look at two of the most popular stone paper products, and how they differ from traditional paper.

Types of Stone Paper

This is more of a marketing phrase than it should be, though it’s important to point out that not every paper manufacturer makes its blend of stone paper the same way.

FiberStone, a leading manufacturer of stone paper, states on its site that other manufacturers use clay coatings or a blend that includes injected tree fiber — something FiberStone does not. FiberStone boasts a production process that is 100% tree and water free.

Oxford makes a stone paper that uses a blend of limestone and polypropylene (PP) to create a stone-based paper that uses less resources to produce than virgin paper.

Environmental Impact

The most obvious difference between stone paper and traditional paper is the amount of raw material that goes into making it. For example, FiberStone’s blend uses no water to create, and no trees are used in the production of its product. That sounds crazy, but it’s true. According to its website, one ton of FiberStone paper saves 16,000 gallons of water, and another 9,000 during recycling.

Oxford’s blend boasts a savings of six million BTUs of energy, 20 trees, 167 lbs. of solid waste, 236 lbs. of atmospheric emissions, and 7,480 gallons of waste water per ton over virgin paper.

According to the Environmental Paper Network Paper Calculator, one ton of standard copy paper requires four tons of wood, 32 million BTUs of net energy, produces 22,219 gallons of waste water, and 1,922 pounds of solid waste.

The downside is that stone paper isn’t biodegradable. Because it’s made of stone, it doesn’t break down and return to the environment like traditional paper. You actually need to recycle it to keep it out of landfills, which could be a bummer if you’re not in a community that actively supports recycling.

That said, stone paper can be recycled with both paper and plastic, making it a versatile addition to the recycling process.

Differences to the User

Stone paper, no matter its blend, has a few properties that set it apart from traditional paper. In fact, some of these properties are pretty remarkable.

Most blends of stone paper are waterproof. You can write on it with a ballpoint pent and run sheets under a faucet for quite some time without the paper falling apart or smudging on you. Traditional paper, not so much.

Stone paper is heavier than traditional paper. In fact, even in a small notebook, the weight difference is considerably noticeable. In fact, stone paper is roughly 60% heavier than regular paper.

Stone paper doesn’t work with all printers. While many inkjet and solid ink printers appear to work just fine, laser printers aren’t recommended due to the heat involved in the printing process. Also, stone paper appears to be a bit sticky, which could be a factor in your printer’s otherwise smooth operation.

Traditional fiber paper has a grain to it while stone paper is noticeably smoother without any need of a covering or gloss that would otherwise prevent ink from absorbing. As such, it’s widely boasted as being a much smoother writing surface than traditional paper products. 

Stone paper appears (in my Oxford notebook at least) to utilize more ink than traditional paper when used for writing. This may not be a huge factor, though it could play in to the long-term cost efficiency of the product.

Final Thoughts

I’m a fan of stone paper, if only because it provides an extremely smooth writing surface that I don’t have to be paranoid about ruining should I sit my notebook next to a cold beverage. I’ve lost some important notes before due to water damage, and enjoy the fact that stone paper provides an added level of protection in that area.

This isn’t the type of material I’d recommend using in bulk, however. With an added 60% weight, it will do more to weigh you down than other options, making those trips to the copy room for a box of paper that much more of a chore.

Stone paper is a remarkable substance that I enjoy using for my daily notes, and it’s interesting to consider where this technology could go in the future as we attempt to move away from hacking and slashing innocent forests in our pursuit of smooth writing surfaces.

Mining for precious metals currently does little for us other than provide precious metals. If we were able to put the tailings (rock and stone material left over from the separation process) to good use as a source of paper, that may effectively kill two birds with one stone. Currently, the paper industry and precious metals mining are two very different entities, though one could consider a potential merging as more companies adopt this tree-free paper.

That said, we appear to be moving toward a paperless society at an incredible rate. The advancement of eInk technologies, tablet computers with collaborative apps that make sharing information easier, and an overall decrease in the use of paper-based textbooks in schools should decrease the amount of reliance we have on paper in the future. Products such as paper cups, tissues, labels, and cardboard will likely continue to exist in wide use for decades. Unfortunately, I don’t see myself blowing my nose with stone paper just yet.

What about you? Have you tried stone paper? What do you think?

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