A Second Chance to Get Paper Products Right

Nov 29th, 2017 | By | Category: Consumption and Waste

By Candela Vázquez Asenjo, youth blogger, Transition Earth.

[photo: FAO]

[photo: FAO]

What would happen if one day we did not have any more paper? Would technology be the only alternative and solution to this and other pressing problems?

We live in a time where the Earth’s forest mass is fast disappearing due to the massive deforestation caused by human actions. However, at the same time we are living in a period where there are more alternatives than ever before to stop the destruction of forests, and use materials other than paper.

These alternatives, apart from being sustainable, are also solving and overcoming other environmental battles. The non-paper materials, in an effort to preserve the feeling that people have towards paper (such as in books or notebooks), are trying to look and feel the same as paper with some modifications that make them stronger, waterproof and able to last longer, with higher resistance to external factors.

For now, these new materials are rather expensive compared to regular paper products. But the improvement and speed in which paper alternatives are coming to market is surprising many people, and already are easily accessible to businesses or other entities.

Here are two of the most original and successful examples of non-paper materials that could be a game-changer for the environment.

Shiro Paper

Shiro Paper has many different sustainable and ecological types of papers, such as the Shiro Algae Paper, that is manufactured from seaweed. The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), an international organization that promotes responsible management of the world’s forests, certifies and labels this paper as eco-friendly.


[sample of Shiro Paper]

[sample of Shiro Paper]

Shiro paper is a biodegradable paper that is suitable for any printing method, such as punching, punching, die-cutting, folding, hot stamping or UV varnishing. Shiro paper is a concept of the Italian company Favini, and combines the best of Favini’s papermaking innovation using biomass that does not come from trees, and contains recycled fibres and uses pure CO2-neutral electrical energy.

The concept of Shiro Algae Paper was born in the 1990s, as a solution to the problem of the lagoon of Venice, where the proliferation of algae endangered the equilibrium of the ecosystem due to the lack of oxygen in the water. This unique concept of reuse of algae is sponsored by the EU and the city of Venice. The collection of algae, drying process, and subsequent use as a replacement of cellulose in the manufacture of paper provided a solution to the unwanted problem of algae, giving rise to an ecological product that is saving trees and fighting Venice’s algae problem. This concept is now being applied to other fragile marine areas.

Stone Paper

Stone Paper is a mineral paper that is produced without trees, water, chlorine or chemical pollutants. The material of Stone Paper is a combination of calcium carbonate (80%) with a small amount (20%) of non-toxic resins (PE – polyethylene). The PE acts as a binder for the calcium carbonate. The symbiosis of these materials creates a product that strongly resists both water and breakage.

Its ecological manufacturing process has no trace of chlorine or acid; water is not used at all in the manufacturing process and no toxic gas is emitted. Its production process actually reduces energy consumption and CO2 emissions. Stone Paper’s energy consumption represents approximately 50% of what is consumed by making conventional paper.


[paper made from stone]

[paper made from stone]

Stone Paper is degradable within a period of between 6 to 9 months when exposed directly to sunlight and humidity. But it will not degrade while it remains inside the store or in the house. New versions have been developed with UV blocking agents so that they can also be used outdoors. Stone Paper can be recycled by transforming used paper into a fine granularity. In the process water is not used, reducing the waste of resources. For these reasons, Stone Paper has been awarded by Cradle to Cradle Silver Certification from MBDC, which works with companies to intentionally design products which eliminate the concept of waste, use clean energy, and value clean water.

These examples prove that the use of paper is possible without the massive destruction of the forests. Given that the traditional pulp and paper industry is the fourth largest industrial energy user worldwide, these paper alternatives offer some hope for change and a slowdown to deforestation due to logging for pulp and paper products.

Ultimately it depends on our willingness to change. Fortunately, the capacity to change and use new and innovative solutions is innate in (most) humans. We just have to focus attention on what really matters, which is our home, our planet.


Candela Vázquez Asenjo is an Environmental Management student at the University of Manchester, UK, and a Law student at the Nebrija University, Spain. She aspires to be a social entrepreneur, with a focus on international environmental problems.

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