CNNMoney
Now playing
06:09
This concrete can trap CO2 emissions
CNN
Now playing
02:32
McDonald's is putting cameras in dumpsters. Here's why
Now playing
03:53
Watch this drone swarm replant a burnt forest
Gary Apodaca/LAFD
Now playing
01:50
Watch the country's first firefighting robot in action
Now playing
03:36
Could this be the cure to our plastic problem?
BERLIN, GERMANY - AUGUST 15:  A mushroom belonging to the Russula genus (in German: Taeubling) grows in a forest near Schlachtensee Lake on August 15, 2011 in Berlin, Germany. The exceptionally rainy German summer has caused mushrooms of all types to flourish, much to the delight of mushroom gatherers.  (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
Sean Gallup/Getty Images Europe/Getty Images
BERLIN, GERMANY - AUGUST 15: A mushroom belonging to the Russula genus (in German: Taeubling) grows in a forest near Schlachtensee Lake on August 15, 2011 in Berlin, Germany. The exceptionally rainy German summer has caused mushrooms of all types to flourish, much to the delight of mushroom gatherers. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
Now playing
01:35
Could mushrooms be the key to replacing plastic?
SCUNTHORPE, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 19:  The sun sets behind the Tata Steel processing plant at Scunthorpe which may make 1200 workers redundant on October 19, 2015 in Scunthorpe, England. Up to one in three workers at the Lincolnshire steel mill could lose their jobs alongside workers at other plants in Scotland. Tata Steel UK  is due to announce the Scunthorpe job losses this week.  (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
Christopher Furlong/Getty Images Europe/Getty Images
SCUNTHORPE, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 19: The sun sets behind the Tata Steel processing plant at Scunthorpe which may make 1200 workers redundant on October 19, 2015 in Scunthorpe, England. Up to one in three workers at the Lincolnshire steel mill could lose their jobs alongside workers at other plants in Scotland. Tata Steel UK is due to announce the Scunthorpe job losses this week. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
Now playing
01:42
These bacteria turn industrial emissions into fuel
Beeflow
Beeflow
Now playing
01:43
Why this startup is making honeybees smarter
August 2019 - Makani's energy kite launches from a floating platform in the North Sea off the coast of Norway
Makani
August 2019 - Makani's energy kite launches from a floating platform in the North Sea off the coast of Norway
Now playing
02:01
These energy kites can go where wind turbines can't
Fraser, a healthy chocolate lab, is a participant in the Vaccination Against Canine Cancer Study.
CNN
Fraser, a healthy chocolate lab, is a participant in the Vaccination Against Canine Cancer Study.
Now playing
02:37
A vaccine against cancer? These dogs are the first patients
Photo Illustration: Getty Images / Loop / CNN
Now playing
03:50
How the world's biggest brands plan to end garbage
Alfredo Alcántara
Now playing
04:33
New York's secret weapon against big storms? Oysters
Now playing
04:58
From a drop of blood, this company can predict what your face looks like
Apeel Sciences
Now playing
03:39
The startup fighting mushy bananas and shriveled strawberries
Now playing
03:04
Could this giant floating pipe clean up 90% of ocean plastic?
Now playing
05:50
Is algae the food of the future?

Is it possible to make paper without trees?

Australian entrepreneurs Kevin Garcia and Jon Tse were determined to find out. They spent a year researching a possible alternative that could serve as a viable raw material for making paper.

“What if we re-engineer how paper is made that’s more in line with our environmental responsibility?” asked Garcia.

Then Garcia read about a Taiwanese company making commercial paper out of stone and inspiration struck.

A year later, in July 2017, they launched Karst Stone Paper. The company produces paper without using timber, water or harsh chemicals. Their source: stone waste mined from construction sites and other industrial waste dumps.

Karst Stone Paper produces paper from recycled limestone instead of tree pulp.
Karst Stone Paper
Karst Stone Paper produces paper from recycled limestone instead of tree pulp.

“If you look at the whole process of how paper is traditionally made, it involves chopping trees, adding chemicals and bleach to make pulp, using lots of water and then squeezing, drying and flattening it into sheets of paper,” said Garcia. “It’s labor intensive, contributes to high carbon emission deforestation.”

The pulp and paper industry uses over 40% of all industrial wood traded globally, according to the World Wildlife Fund. Karst, based in Sydney, aims to reduce the rate of deforestation with its sustainably-made paper goods.

In 2019, Garcia estimates Karst’s paper production helped save 540 large timber trees from being deforested, 83,100 liters (21,953 gallons) of water from being used and 25,500 kilograms (56,218 pounds) of carbon dioxide from being emitted.

“We collect discarded limestone from wherever we can find it, wash it, and ground it into fine powder,” he said. The powder is mixed with a HDPE (high-density polyethylene) resin, which is compostable or photodegradable, meaning it decomposes over time from sunlight, leaving only calcium carbonate behind.

Garcia said 90% of the mixture is calcium carbonate and 10% is resin, which binds the powder together. The paste-like mixture is then turned into small pellets, heated and put through large rollers to turn it into thin sheets of paper.

“The paper can be as thin as notebook paper or as thick as a cardboard paper,” said Garcia.

The carbon emission from this process is “about 67% less than making paper from tree pulp,” he said.

The resulting product is waterproof, difficult to tear and recyclable.

The limestone waste is ground into powder, mixed with resin, turned into small pellets and fed through large rollers.
Karst Stone Paper
The limestone waste is ground into powder, mixed with resin, turned into small pellets and fed through large rollers.

The notebooks cost $10 to $25, depending on the size. The brand’s planners range from $39 to $49.

Karst’s products are primarily sold through the company’s website but are also stocked in 100 stores, mainly throughout Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom. “Over 70% of the customers are US-based,” he said.

They’ve also sold to a few large corporate clients. Garcia said Facebook (FB), WeWork, and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative have ordered custom notebooks from the company for events, as gifts, or to be included in welcome packages for new employees.

They hope to have the notebooks in 1,000 stores by the end of the year. Garcia said the pair are now thinking about approaching investors for the first time in order to scale up their operations. They declined to disclose how much the company makes or their annual revenue.

Karst Stone Paper founders Kevin Garcia and Jon Tse.
Claudio Raschella
Karst Stone Paper founders Kevin Garcia and Jon Tse.

’A sustainable alternative to an everyday product’

Garcia and Tse, both 32, grew up across the street from each other in Sydney. But it was soccer that brought them together.

“We played for rival leagues growing up,” said Garcia.

They parted ways after high school. Garcia graduated from the University of Sydney in 2012 with degrees in medical health science and radiation science. Tse graduated from Macquarie University in 2010 where he studied accounting.

When they reconnected several years later, both had accrued some entrepreneurial experience. Tse had co-founded Zookal, a textbook rental startup in 2011. He has taken a step back from the company since founding Karst. “I am still a shareholder and on the board but no longer operationally involved,” he said.

Garcia had launched a watch company called Lehft, which he shut down in January 2018 to focus on Karst.

“[W]e bonded over entrepreneurship and our obsession with creating something beautiful that people could use everyday and would make a big impact in the world,” said Garcia.

Karst Stone Paper notebooks are also waterproof.
Karst Stone Paper
Karst Stone Paper notebooks are also waterproof.

When Garcia read about the Taiwanese company making commercial packaging from stone, the two flew to Taiwan to meet with the manufacturer.

“We already knew we wanted to create beautiful stationery from this paper that looked great and was environmentally responsible,” said Garcia.

The two men jointly bootstrapped the business with $30,000 of their own savings. “We put 99% of it into developing product and a website,” said Garcia.

With limited budget for marketing, they relied on Facebook for getting the word out. “Our initial video reached over 10 million views on Facebook in a few months,” said Garcia.

They hired the Taiwanese manufacturer and produced 5,000 notebooks in the first run. Two years later, the business has sold about 70,000 notebooks to customers in 81 countries, said Tse.

’This is about much more than just selling something’

The McNally Jackson stationery store in New York City has been selling Karst Stone Paper since June.

“They’ve been selling well for us,” said Victoria Villier, a sales associate who oversees product displays and inventory.