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Are stone paper amenities sustainable?

You will have heard of stone or rock paper. It was heralded as the environmentally friendly saviour to traditional paper made from trees when it first came to prominence in the late 1990s.

At first glance, stone paper appears to be a dream come true for eco-conscious consumers. Marketed as the 'tree-free' alternative, its distinct properties make it popular among producers of hospitality products such as wrapping soap.

The stone paper industry has experienced steady growth, particularly in the last decade or so. True to the name, stone paper is wholly tree-free and non-toxic. Smooth to the touch, it's printable, hardwearing, waterproof, and highly tear-resistant.

Paper meets plastic

So, what's not to love? It uses no water – according to Environmental Choice, around 28,390 litres of fresh water are used to produce one tonne of paper, and of course there’s the all-important tree-saving factor.

Stone paper consists of (roughly):

  • 80% calcium carbonate (powdered limestone extracted from limestone quarries)
  • 18% HDPE resin
  • 2% proprietary coating

However, a closer look reveals that the rock paper industry has a problem with that 20%, the sort of ecological binder. With stone paper, HDPE (the very same HDPE found in plastic bottles, shampoo containers, milk jugs and piping, to name a few) is used as a binder to keep the calcium carbonate together in flat sheets and to give it the "foldability" of wood-sourced paper.

More waste, not less?

While not all stone paper is the same (it’s not a regulated term as such), the inclusion of minerals in stone paper means the recycling process for rock paper is complicated. While it’s photo-degradable under suitable conditions, it’s not compostable. This difficulty in recycling can result in more waste going to landfills, further contributing to environmental degradation.

The manufacturing process of rock paper also involves chemical treatments to turn the mined limestone into a pulp-like substance. These chemicals, including acids and bleaching agents, pose possible environmental risks.

HDPE the right way

Full transparency here. At Astro Hospitality, HDPE or high-density polyethylene features in some of our products. HDPE is the most environmentally stable of all plastics and is accepted at many domestic and commercial recycling centres. HDPE has a plastic code number 2, and while it's one of the most commonly recycled plastics worldwide, it's not universally accepted everywhere. It's a fact that isn’t widely advertised by stone paper advocates. Therefore, consumers who want 100% eco-friendly paper may be surprised to learn that their stone paper journal is not the last word in “ultimate green” paper.

A blast in the present

While it's true that limestone is abundant in nature, critics argue that the extraction process also raises red flags from an environmental perspective. Limestone quarrying involves blasting and excavation, leading to habitat destruction and soil erosion. These activities can disrupt local ecosystems, displacing wildlife and compromising biodiversity. Transporting massive quantities of limestone also contributes to air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.

Heavy machinery, such as bulldozers and trucks, emit significant carbon dioxide and particulate matter, further adding to the environmental toll of rock paper production. Moreover, waste disposal from the rock paper production process raises concerns about the potential contamination of soil and groundwater.

Looking to a greener future

What does this all tell us? Can stone paper truly claim itself to be the low-carbon or carbon-neutral alternative to traditional paper? In conclusion, no. Unfortunately, due to environmental factors and that 20% binding, stone paper is not the ultimate eco-friendly paper it’s claimed to be and, as a result, there are concerns over its sustainability. Suppliers, consumers and customers alike looking for the greenest-possible paper option will be disappointed to find stone paper’s green credentials crumble on closer inspection.

Looking for Stone Paper alternatives?

If your currently using “Stone Paper” dry amenities and want to move to a dry amenities product range whose packaging is FSC Certified compostable and recyclable check out the range from Pure White Enviro or contact customer service at

About the author

Veronica Aris

Veronica has more than 20 years in senior management roles, leading marketing and sales strategies that include primary care consumables, pharmaceuticals, natural health care supplements, consumer and safety products within B2B and B2C.