Karst Stone Paper Has Figured Out How To Turn Rocks Into Paper

Forbes 2 months ago
Karst campaign5
Karst Stone Paper notebooks

If Karst Stone Paper has its way, you’ll never play Rock-Paper-Scissors the same way again. Its rocks become paper that cuts more crisply with scissors. Paper made from rocks – Who couldn’t be intrigued?

For nearly a thousand years, paper was made the same way from linen, cotton and hemp rag fibers. Then in the mid-19th century with the coming of the industrial age, paper manufacturers learned how to make paper from wood. It made paper cheaper but also of a lesser quality owing to the heavy use of acid to extract the cellulose fibers needed for the process. That acid has created a crisis for libraries, archives, and museums ever since, as it eventually turns the paper to dust.

Today paper manufacturers have learned how to produce acid-free paper by adding calcium carbonate to neutralize the acid, but the industry remains a highly toxic one. It is said to be the third-largest industrial polluter in the U.S., a heavy user of energy and water, and a contributor to deforestation. While recycling paper helps the industry’s environmental impact, it still requires intensive industrial processes.

Now the papermaking process is poised to undergo another revolution. Paper can be made by grounding down stone waste to extract calcium carbonate. The process requires no water as in traditional paper manufacture and results in no water pollution.

Karst Stone Paper founders, Kevin Garcia and Jon Tse, discovered stone paper by accident while on holiday in Taiwan from their native Sydney, Australia. They found it was being used for food packaging because unlike wood-pulp paper, it is waterproof.

 Karst Photo sitting with products
Karst Stone Paper founders Kevin Garcia (left) and Jon Tse (right)

Intrigued by the concept, they visited the factory that was producing the paper for industrial uses and saw an opportunity to bring it into the consumer market.

“For the last couple of years, I’ve become increasingly aware of the products I am buying and more conscious of the impact I was having on the world’s resources and the environment,” Tse shared with me. “So when I learned how eco-friendly stone paper was and that is was much more sustainable than the toxic traditional pulp paper, I was really excited by the opportunity to make a ‘dent in the universe.’”

Garcia and Tse decided on notebooks as the company’s first foray into consumer goods, entering the $90.6 billion global stationery products market. “We have made a tiny (but I think meaningful) step towards disrupting Moleskine, Leuchtturm1917, Baron Fig and others. We have bootstrapped the company for the past two years to sell to over 70,000 customers in more than 81 countries,” Tse said. The company was founded in 2017 selling initially via e-commerce.

But now retailers are catching on, with about 100 stores in Australia, the U.K. and U.S. stocking Karst’s notebooks, which tuck in very nicely to their existing notebook range.

Competitively priced, a Karst Stone Paper A5 notebook is priced at $25 as compared with around $20 for a Moleskin, but Karst notebooks offer retailers a buzz-worthy story to tell, unlike traditional brands.

“Karst Stone Paper is a superior alternative to traditional pulp paper that uses no trees, water, wastes, acids or bleaches to produce,” the company’s website states. The factory that produces stone paper is largely solar powered resulting in a 60% smaller carbon footprint than traditional paper. And the company promises to plant a tree for every product sold.

On the shelf, Karst notebooks look just as good as the competitive brands but promise to perform better. The paper is a brighter white and smoother to write on because there is no grain as found in traditional paper. In addition, it is waterproof and virtually untearable, though I found it cuts more smoothly with a scissors.

From its flagship notebooks, Karst now offers a growing range of different notebook sizes and bindings, along with a planner, notepad, sketchpad, and woodless pencils. The company aims to bring 1,000 retailers on board by the end of the year and has plans to create A4 reams of stone paper soon to be used in printers.

“Our ambition is to see Karst Stone Paper in every home and every office,” Tse declares. Already the company is making inroads into the corporate business. “Organizations are keen to make their workplaces more eco-friendly and are requesting custom stone paper notebooks for their offices and for corporate gifting,” he continues adding that they have supplied notebooks to  Facebook, WeWork and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative among others.

Tse kindly shared some stone paper notebooks with me (an avid notetaker and all-round notebook aficionado) and they didn’t disappoint. I found them a little weightier than other brands, but then I like the feel of a real book in my hand. Every pencil and pen on hand slid easily across the surface and the writing doesn’t bleed through even with a Sharpie.

The company claims, “Like traditional paper, only better,” and I have to agree.

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