Paper From Plastic Bottles: An Environmental Win?

are plastic bottles the future of paper?

are plastic bottles the future of paper?

Remember Cradle to Cradle? Even if you didn’t read the book, terms like “upcycling” – which it made popular -have become a part of our common language when discussing resource reuse. The physical book was even an example of upcycling: rather than traditional paper and paperboard, Cradle to Cradle was printed on sheets of plastic resin that could be stripped of their ink and reused further. I don’t remember all of the details, and can’t find them, but it sounds an awful lot like a recent development out of Mexico: two entrepreneurs have figured out how to make mineral paper out of PET plastic bottles that’s four times cheaper than current methods.

Start-up Cronology (yes, that’s spelled correctly) used the tortilla press as their inspiration for a new machine to press a paste of “recycled plastic bottles, calcium carbonate and stone.” According to company co-founder Ever Adrian Nava, their technology achieves a number of environmental benefits: “We don’t use water or chemicals, such as chlorine. The mineral paper is stronger than the standard, you can not break it with your hands, is waterproof, has the quality of being photodegradable, and only absorbs the necessary amount of ink when printing,”

Deforestation inspired Nava and partner Erick Zamudio to research alternatives to paper made from wood pulp, and their technology helps on that front: each ton of their paper saves 20 trees, as well as 56,000 liters (or just under 15,000 gallons) of water. The paper meets quality standards needed for books, stationary, and product packaging. Sounds like a winner all around… right?

While I think this probably is a step forward on paper production, I’m a bit concerned by the degradability claims. If biodegradable, that’s definitely good. But if this product is photodegradable (like all plastics), that could end up contributing further to plastic pollution issues in oceans and other ecosystems. Both words are used in the press release (as is plain “degradable”), so I’m holding final judgment.

Know more about production of paper alternatives than I do? Think this is a win? Still have concerns? Share your thoughts with us in the comments.

Image credit: Shutterstock

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