Treeless paper: An interview with Paper on the Rocks

Dec 22, 2022 | written by:

Producing environmentally friendly paper, without cutting down trees, but by using construction and agricultural waste to make notebooks of the highest quality: that's the mission of Paper on the Rocks, a Dutch company founded by Anne Pleun van Eijsden. 

'When I was twelve, I desperately wanted to become a writer, to inspire people to keep dreaming. And I feel that's what I ended up doing, just from a different perspective. Here at Paper on the Rocks, we produce tools that help people to keep dreaming, writing, drawing and sharing thoughts.'

Paper on the Rocks notebooks are designed for writing, doodling and drawing freely and doing all those things in a sustainable way. A simple idea, for a greener world. We at Treedom decided to find out more and asked the Paper on the Rocks team a few questions.

Why is it more sustainable to use paper made from mining and agricultural waste than traditional paper?
Before talking about the degree of sustainability, let's briefly explain what exactly mining waste is. During mining, calcium carbonate stones or limestone residues are left behind. This limestone is used as the main raw material for 'stone paper'. The colour of the stones is the colour that the card will take on. Therefore, mainly white/yellow-white stones are used, so that, unlike in the traditional paper-making process, it isn't necessary to add bleach and other toxins to whiten the paper. With the motto "a picture is worth a thousand words", in mind, Figure 1 shows us why stone paper, as an alternative to treeless paper, is more sustainable than traditional paper.

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Agricultural waste, which mainly consists of sugar cane stalks, is recycled by farmers in India and South America to produce vegetable paper instead of being burned. Avoiding the incineration of agricultural waste reduces potential CO2 emissions and in addition, the carbon footprint of vegetable paper production is 47% smaller than traditional pulp paper production. Finally, no toxins and bleach are added and the trees are not touched.

Can you tell us more about the different products you create with these materials?
We are an 'all-round supplier' of tree-free paper products. This means that we have the knowledge and expertise to make (almost) any paper product more sustainable by offering a tree-free alternative. Our most popular item is the fully customised 'Rockbook'. This is a unique notebook made of stone paper with a design which can be completely adapted to the customer's preferences. Other examples of our product range are printed paper, event badges, business cards, notepads, posters and even pens!
Since innovation is necessary to pursue our mission of saving forests and improving biodiversity, the search for new tree-free paper alternatives is essential. So we will continue to develop new types of paper and further expand our product range.

Are your solutions even more sustainable than recycled paper?
The carbon footprint for the production of stone paper compared to that of recycled paper is presented above, in Figure 1. For plant-based paper, the 47% lower carbon footprint mentioned in question 1 refers to virgin pulp FSC paper. The carbon footprint for vegetable paper production is 29% lower compared to recycled FSC paper.

Looking more closely at your products themselves, how do they compare to more traditional paper?
Since stone is made of minerals, the surface of stone paper is different from traditional paper, which is made of fibres. Stone paper is softer and smoother and allows the pen to move effortlessly on the paper, offering a unique writing experience. Stone paper is also difficult to tear and is water-repellent although the ink of any pen adheres well to it. A notebook made of stone paper is also heavier than a 'normal' notebook, which will surprise anyone holding a Rockbook for the first time.
Vegetable paper has a similar structure to traditional paper, both being made of fibres. However, the first thing one notices when holding a sheet of vegetable paper next to a sheet of 'traditional' paper is the different colour. Since no bleach is used in the production of vegetable paper, the original brownish colour is still visible. This ensures a sustainable and natural appearance.

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Can you tell us what other factors make your products more sustainable, besides the materials from which they are made?
By purchasing agricultural waste from local farmers, vegetable waste is recycled instead of being burnt. The waste material is then used as an input for a new product. This kind of circular approach has a positive impact on the environment. In addition to the positive environmental impact, there is also a social impact by providing local farmers with an additional source of income as we purchase raw materials that would otherwise have gone to waste. Furthermore, all products in our range are produced locally with 100% green energy. All the ink that is processed in the products is made from vegetable oil. 

Who are your customers at present?
We supply both companies and individuals. Any company that is concerned with sustainability and uses paper products is a potential customer of ours. Due to the luxurious appearance of our products, our customers are often high-end companies but at the same time, our customers are very diverse and range from municipalities to law firms, from universities to lifestyle coaches. Customers can order all our products online. At the moment, the most popular book is a notebook that jokingly refers to the bad memory of our Prime Minister – this notebook is completely blank, so that somewhat forgetful people can put their notes in it as a reminder. Bookshops also offer our products to customers and are therefore an important target group for us as well.
Img from: paperontherocks.comHow do you see the issue of sustainability in relation to the growth of your business?
We foresee a very bright and sustainable future as far as the growth of our business is concerned. We have experienced great growth in recent years, which has allowed us to develop our own type of paper in cooperation with our partners. The new paper grade has great potential, as both the raw material and the production activities will take place on site. As a result, transport movements will be significantly reduced in comparison to traditional paper and therefore the impact on the environment will be lower still. Thanks to the practical application of our research results, we are poised to enter new potential markets and ensure further company growth. 

What are your goals and dreams as a company?
The ultimate dream is to create a 'healthy' and sustainable paper industry. In this industry, paper is produced from raw materials that are regionally abundant and can be extracted in an environmentally friendly manner. To illustrate this with an example, where limestone is abundant, stone paper should be produced and used, while in places where there is a lot of agricultural waste, the production and use of vegetable paper would be preferable. Discovering all potential tree-free paper alternatives requires a lot of research, both to explore the possibilities to set up efficient production processes to ensure it's financially possible to sell at a competitive price. 

You can find Paper on the Rocks at:
Paper on the Rocks is also a partner of Treedom: you can find their forest page here and if you want to join the effort to plant trees for you or your company, this is the right address:

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