Impact Journalism Day by Sparknews: A better society - No. 35

From marble waste to eco paper

TLM's paper as well as its manufacturing process are eco-friendly in that the paper does not come from trees.
TLM's paper as well as its manufacturing process are eco-friendly in that the paper does not come from trees.PHOTO: TAIWAN LUNG MENG

TAIPEI • Can stone be turned into paper?

One company in Taiwan attempted it, and has been successful.

The Taiwan Lung Meng Technology Company (TLM), based in the southern city of Tainan, has pioneered a process that takes marble waste and converts it into high-quality paper.

This stone paper, that uses a mixture of 80 per cent calcium carbonate and 20 per cent non-toxic resin, is not only recyclable but its manufacturing process is also eco-friendly in that the paper does not come from the trees that our Earth desperately needs.

The making of stone paper involves the process of grinding leftover mined marble into a fine powder, adding calcium carbonate and a resin mixture and bringing it to boil at around 160 deg C. The composition does not require acid, alkalis or bleaching, nor does it cause water pollution. And the only water used is for cooling the stone paper pallets. The result is a lightweight, soft-to-the-touch writing medium that is hard to tear, suitable for storage and can even be used for note-taking by divers under water.

 

In contrast, 900kg of wood pulp paper requires the felling of 20 trees and the usage of close to 28,400 litres of water and creates nearly 1,000kg of carbon emissions. TLM's "non-wood consuming" process, which it has developed at a cost of US$50 million (S$67 million), has won it many accolades and certifications, including being the first to be awarded "Cradle to Cradle" (C2C) certification in Taiwan.

In contrast to cradle-to-grave (C2G) materials which cannot be recycled and reused, C2C standards certify that a product is sustainable in five categories: material safety, recovery/recycling, energy usage, water usage and social responsibility.

Aside from the environmental advantages, stone paper has practical advantages over its traditional wood paper counterparts.

For one, stone-based paper is flame-, water- and bug-resistant, making it ideal for archives. Due to the paper's durability to the elements, it is also an ideal material for posters, manuals and trail maps.

It is also lighter, which translates into reduced burden for textbook-toting schoolchildren.

Beyond paper, TLM has ventured into stone-based T-Shirt Bags (reusable grocery sacks). Unlike traditional grocery sacks that take decades to decompose, TLM's variant takes half a year to a year under direct UV exposure.

Already, the company's technology has been patented in more than 40 countries and is being sold in Europe (the Netherlands, Germany and France) as well as in Canada and Australia.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 25, 2016, with the headline 'From marble waste to eco paper'. Print Edition | Subscribe