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Haiti picture

Green Economy moves forward in Haiti

Last September Haiti´s Ministries of Environment and Agriculture and the UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme) held a workshop in Port-au-Prince to certify the discoveries of an exploratory study on the green economy potential of the agricultural sector in the South Department of Haiti. Through a green economy approach, the main value chains (mango, honey, cashew, castor oil and cocoa) would help to reinforce the system of the protected areas, which would consequently ensure health, productive ecosystems and promote sustainable economic development. Many suggestion were made during the workshop, for example expanding the study to additional varieties of value chains and considering the potential of organic certification.

The report will be presented also at the 3rd Conference of Green Economy in the Caribbean. It is part of the UNEP project “Advancing Caribbean States´ Sustainable development through Green Economy (GE)”. This project aims to establish a regional green network between the Caribbean countries: Jamaica, Haiti, and Saint Lucia. It has three main goals:
– Creating a national Green Economy knowledge and network platforms and a regional Green Economy network in order to share different experiences and best practises;
– Defining local policies of Green Economy investment options based on quantitave assessment in Haiti, Jamaica and Saint Lucia;
– Developing and support a regional centre of excellence on Green Economy and producing a capacity-building materials tailor-made for policymakers in the region.
Using at best the surrounding ecosystem and environment in order to reinforce sustainable economic development but at the same time respecting it and not exploiting it is one of the core characteristic of the Blue Economy policy. May Haiti and its new Green Economy approach inspire other countries in the world to follow its lead.

Sources:

“South Department Agriculture Report Validated in Haiti”, http://www.unep.org/greeneconomy/Default.aspx?tabid=1060568

“Advancing Caribbean States´ Sustainable Development through Green Economy”, http://www.greengrowthknowledge.org/project/advancing-caribbean-states%E2%80%99-sustainable-development-through-green-economy

Picture by USAID U.S. Agency for International Development (link: https://www.flickr.com/photos/usaid_images/5102599107/ )

Pectinatella magnifica	Bryozoan, living, Rheinberg

CO2 Eating Organisms In the Antarctic

When we hear about climate change, it’s usually about humans destroying the basis of our own livelihoods – with ecosystems as the victim. However, researcher David Barnes of the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) just published some new findings that could prove this perspective wrong.

After 20 years of collecting data, Mr. Barnes found out that in the melting of Antarctic ice led to a marked increase of the presence of bryozoans, living organisms that absorb CO2. Their number has doubled over the past two decades, and scientists estimate that they are absorbing an amount of CO2 equivalent to about 50,000 hectares of tropical rainforest per annum. This would consequently have a slowing effect on climate change.

When polar ice melts, the white and reflecting poles become much darker, therefore absorbing more heat and melting more ice – usually creating a vicious cycle. But this melting can have a positive effect: where the water is relatively shallow, ice-free water helps the growth of phytoplankton, which in turn feeds the bryozoans, who therefore absorb a significant amount of carbon.

There are surprising differences in the amount of carbon taken up in different regions in Antarctica. As these differences are linked to the sea ice losses at each location, there are big hopes of finding such organisms in the Arctic area too.

Scientists already knew that algae and arctic forests partially mitigate climate change. By studying these organisms, the range of species that absorb CO2 has just increased. It is amazing how, although not visible, ecosystems have already begun reacting climate change, stabilizing the planet. Seems “homo sapiens” still have much to learn.

Sources:

http://gaianews.it/ambiente/clima/fusione-del-ghiaccio-antartico-in-aumento-la-vita-nei-mari-e-lassorbimento-di-co2-59128.html#.VkNE5ys_DIU

http://www.news.com.au/technology/environment/scientist-has-found-melting-ice-caps-have-led-to-increase-in-bryozoans-who-absorb-co2/story-fnjwvztl-1227538986456

http://www.welt.de/wissenschaft/umwelt/article146660283/Kleine-Tierchen-futtern-Kohlendioxid-in-Massen-weg.html

Picture: https://www.flickr.com/photos/carolinabio/5804018747/

Ecoasia picture

Ecosia, the Tree-saving Web Search Engine

Born in 2009 from an idea of Christian Kroll, Ecosia is a CO2-neutral web search engine based in Berlin, Germany, which donates 80% of its surplus income to a tree planting program in Brazil. Ecosia is also raising funds for forestation in Burkina Faso, as part of the Great Green Wali project backed by the African Union and the World Bank, which aims to prevent desertification.

Powered by Bing and Yahoo, Ecosia shows ads together with the search results. By clicking on these ads Ecosia receives an income, of which 80% is donated to the tree planting-projects. So far, Ecosia has donated more than §4.5 million to the environment, planting more than 2.5 million trees. Their goal is to plant 1 billion trees by 2020.

As any other search engine, Ecosia results consist of (Eco)ads and (Eco)links. By clicking on the ads, Ecosia is paid for having delivered the user to the advertiser’s site, and by clicking on the links, the user is taken to the desired item in the e-commerce partner’s shop. Every time a user purchases something at one of these shops through the Ecosia link, Ecosia is paid a commission.

Planting forests doesn’t only solve environmental issues. For example, deserts can be turned back into fertile woods, which feed local communities, improving their health and creating jobs which could consequently strengthen the economy and stabilize political situations.

The great thing about Ecosia is that all you need to do is to make it your default search engine. Then, start searching and looking for what you need, but with the awareness that now you’re making a difference.

Source links:

http://www.latinpost.com/articles/4164/20131129/green-google-alternative-ecosia-founder-christian-kroll-search-engine.htm

http://tech.eu/features/1155/ecosia/

https://info.ecosia.org/what

http://argomenti.ilsole24ore.com/christian-kroll.html

Picture by ChCarlou; link: https://www.flickr.com/photos/everydataflickr/6309496568/

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Straw – the next eco-innovative pacesetter

Straw – the next eco-innovative pacesetter

by Markus Haastert, Anne-Kathrin Kuhlemann

Background: Biomass and natural ecosystems

c101_straw_01 Straw – the next eco-innovative pacesetter Examples

The effort towards lessening the impact of negative human activities on the environment is yet to grow. The European Union stated that eco-innovation is not always about new materials, it can also be about finding new approaches to old materials. Imagine that straw, one of the most underutilized agricultural residues is assuming a leading role in the eco-invention of energy mix and building construction? This may be evidence that global greenhouse gas emission would be lessened to 80 percent by 2050 to thwart the risks associated with environmental degradation. The trending innovative and sustainable use of straw may just be the much-awaited environmentally solution.
The ecosystem produces plenty of natural biomass waste, such as forest, wood and agricultural products. Composting of natural biomass waste converts such wastes into valuable soil amendments, enhancing soil quality through a controlled process by stabilizing organic material.  Composting is highly beneficial in the farming industry, as it improves crop growth, destroying weed seeds, as well as plant and human pathogens. Agricultural straw residue is normally used for composting. Straw is a complex carbon made of cellulose, hemi-cellulose, and lignin; which are components that are resistant to decomposition. Such components are common in plants, providing them with stability and strength. When erosion or grading control permits are required as per local regulations, farmers tend to create 1 or 2 percentage of straw bay hales, as it helps reduce erosion (Brewer et al, 2013).
Currently, a vast amount of unused agricultural straw residues exists around the world. China, India, and the United States are ranked as the major producers of wheat and rice straw residues (Mantanis et al, 2000). China produces more than approximately 620 billion tons of straw a year, ranking as one of the most abundant straw producers in the world. China’s usage of straw for energetic purposes improves environmental protection and sustainable development in a continuous growing-economical nation (Zeng & Ma, 2005).
The production of straw is considered a risk to some farmers, as haulms may break during storms or strong winds. Shorter stem crops have been bred in order to assist with mechanized harvesting, significantly reducing wind damage. Long stem straws injured by hail usually break due to strong winds, or are simultaneously damaged by diseases (Paulsen, 1997). Therefore, farmers prefer crops with shorter stems, such as cereal crops, which are bred to grow shorter. Consequently, biomass production composed of long-stem straws is significantly reducing, affecting negatively the environmental benefits of its usage.
We all know straw, the agricultural by-product; the dry stalks of cereals we leave in the farm after the grain and chaff have been removed. This dry stalk makes up about half of the yield of cereals crops such as oats, rice, rye, barley, etc. These dry stalks are gathered and stored in a straw bale. It’s surprising to know that inasmuch as this residue is considered of less value, its uses are amazing, much more its unimaginable emerging innovative uses in the future energy mix and construction of houses.

Innovation: from food to carbon-negative buildings

You would marvel at the historic and immediate use of straw across the globe. We are used to using straw as animal feed— roughage component of diet to feed cattle or horses. It is used in basketry for making bee skeps and linen baskets and bedding for livestock or humans. Surprised? Straw-filled mattresses referred to as palliasse is still in use in many part of the word – not least due to the positive health effects the silica contained in many straws, e.g. from rye and rice, reportedly have. In fact, silica converted to silicon carbide (SiC) has dozens of industrial applications ranging from electronics to jewelry. Straw itself is used in areas such as erosion control in construction sites, hats production, and production of cucumber houses, cultivation of mushrooms, mulching materials, production of ropes and shoes especially in Korea’s Jipsin sandals, production of compostable food packaging materials and in paper-making.
Straw is now used to develop safe, energy-efficient and sustainable construction practices across the globe. The materials are locally available and could easily be used to produce comfortable, safe, affordable, durable, and aesthetic alternative to costly and environmentally-unfriendly alternatives. In People’s Republic of China for instance, straw-bales construction is currently in vogue to build houses and other public buildings using waste rice straw. As at 2005, over 600 houses have been completed and the benefits are amazing especially its eco-friendly benefits. It has significantly reduced coal consumption and CO2 emissions; lowers risks of respiratory disease and offer much resistance to earthquakes, etc.

c101_straw_02 Straw – the next eco-innovative pacesetter Examples

In Lithuania, the Ecococon’s straw panel is another clear example of successful straw potential in building industry. The panels are from straws tightly-packed into wooden frames which are used to build houses built on wooden bases and mounted on a waterproof layer; once built the houses would be plastered as traditional brickwork. The house can be long-lasting and not easily burnt, as report shows that it can be used for decades or centuries. The construction is low-intensity with no need for concrete or high-energy consuming equipments. In fact, at the end of the house’s lifespan, the company said it can be dismantled and the materials reused. This reduces environmental degradation associated with demolition of brick-built houses and thus promotes environmental health.
In the English city of Bradford, a whole business park is built with straw. The Inspire Bradford Business Park comprise two buildings which provide 2,800 square meters of shared facilities, workshops, offices including rooms and café. This park is believed to be Europe’s largest straw constructions. It’s built in accordance with sustainable principles having met the rating for energy efficiency of the Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method.
The potentials of straw seem so remarkable that the European Union supports EUROCELL project with €1,611,096 through its Competitiveness and Innovation Programme. This project is geared towards researching the certification of straw panel building as a basis for market development and acceptance of the approach. It’s important to note that Modcell is a partner in this project. Modcell is one of the first products to make extensive carbon-negative building a commercial real existence. It employs the remarkable thermal insulation qualities of straw bale and hemp construction to form prefabricated panes. This aids construction of super-insulated, high-performance, low energy buildings with renewable, carbon sequestering, locally-sourced and sustainable building materials.

Potential: A source of energy
Most eco-aggressive development agencies across the world are currently employing straw as option in their possible future energy mix. In Germany, the findings of TLL (Thueringian regional institute for agriculture), the DBFZ (German biomass research centre) and the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) showed a promising result.
The findings of this experiment which employed a total of 30 million tons of cereals straw produced annually revealed that 8 and 13 million tons of straw could be used sustainably for energy or fuel production. This undoubtedly highlights the potential contribution of straw to renewable sources of energy. The finding further showed that this potential could give 1.7 to 2.8 million average households with electricity while providing 2.8 to 4.5 million households with heating.
This is a potential energy alternative and environmental remedy to unsustainable energy production. With the rising demand for electricity which is expected to rise to 2.7 times higher by 2025, straw may be the pacesetter in scaling up power supply that will meet world demand of electricity without compromising ecological health. This means that there is hope for production of over 90% of cleaner energy that must replace coal and natural gas plant. Does this seem a daunting task?
Straw has such numerous benefits, it seems we urgently need to reverse the current trend towards shorter haulms. The many researchers dedicated to developing different types of varieties resistant to winter hardiness, strong winds, hail and storms (Limagrain Cereal Seeds, 2010) are hopefully also focusing on strengthening haulms instead. For the production of wheat straws, new varieties of wheat are constantly created, undergoing testing by the National Variety Trials Project (NVT), and the Department of Agriculture and Food (DAFWA) in the United States (Shackley et al, 2014). The creation of long stem crops with stronger haulms and highly resistant to hardiness are necessary. When combined with traditional farming techniques such as hedge growing would allow for the continued production of plentiful straw.

c101_straw_03 Straw – the next eco-innovative pacesetter Examples

The innovative and environmental-friendly use of straw in boosting global energy mix and in cushioning the effect of harmful practices and environmental degradation associated with building construction is the new phase of eco-invention. The use of straw in all its forms is reliable, sustainable, portable, affordable, comfortable, abundant and flexible; thus, it offers a great alternative for the world’s clean energy demand.  Straw, it seems, is the leader in our future eco-inventions.

Note:

This text was scanned to ensure it contains no plagiarism using plagscan.com.

CCcopy Straw – the next eco-innovative pacesetter Examples  This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Sources:

References

Brewer, L., Andrews, N., Sullivan, D., & Gehr, W. (June 2013). Agricultural composting and

water quality (EM 9053). Oregon State University Extension Service. Retrieved from

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/xmlui/bitstream/handle/1957/39040/em9053.pdf


Paulsen, G. (May1997). Growth and development. Wheat production handbook. Kansas State

University Agricultural Experimental Station and Cooperative Extension Service. Retrieved from

http://www.caes.uga.edu/commodities/fieldcrops/gagrains/documents/c529.pdf


Mantanis, G., Nakos, P., Berns, J., & Rigal, L. (2000). Turning agricultural straw residues into

value-added composite products: a new environmentally friendly technology. Retrieved

from: http://users.teilar.gr/~mantanis/research.files/G1.pdf

Shackley, B., Zaicou-Kunesch,C., Dhammu, H., Shankar, M., Amjad, M., Young, K. (2014). Wheat variety guide for WA. Grains Research & Development Corporation. Retrieved from:

http://www.nvtonline.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/WA-wheat-variety-guide-2014-for-web1.pdf


Limagrain Cereal Seeds (2010). What we do. Breeders & development of varieties of wheat. Retrieved from:
http://www.limagraincerealseeds.com/what-we-do


Zeng, X. & Ma, Y. (2005). Utilization of straw in biomass energy in China. Thermal Energy

Research Institute, Tianjin University, Tianjin 300072, People’s Republic of China

doi: 10.1016/j.rser.2005.10.003

Hedgegrows, ditches and open drains are designated as landscape features for the purpose of the

single payment scheme. Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Ireland). Retrieved from:

https://www.agriculture.gov.ie/media/migration/farmingschemesandpayments/crosscompliance/landscapefeatures/Hedges%20and%20drains%2012%2008%2009.pdf

Economics and funding SIG (June 2007). Valuing the benefits of biodiversity. Retrieved from:
http://archive.defra.gov.uk/environment/biodiversity/documents/econ-bene-biodiversity.pdf

Healthy Garden Workshop Series, maximizing your harvest. United States Department of Agriculture. Retrieved from:

http://www.usda.gov/documents/Companion_Planting_and_Harvesting_Workshop_Handout.pdf

http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/rea/news/article/2013/10/is-straw-germanys-next-big-energy-resource

http://ec.europa.eu/environment/ecoap/about-eco-innovation/policies-matters/eu/20130409-houses-built-of-straw_en.htm

http://www.alchimag.net/portale/2014/03/10/modcell-straw-technology-the-eco-innovate-european-research/

http://www.inspirebradford.com/content/news/europe%E2%80%99s-largest-straw-bale-buildings-take-shape-inspire-bradford-business-park

http://www.worldhabitatawards.org/winners-and-finalists/project-details.cfm?lang=00&theProjectID=292


Photos (Sources):

https://www.flickr.com/photos/zunami/2749249152/

https://www.flickr.com/photos/usdagov/8369765859

https://www.flickr.com/photos/svenikolov/6050882756/

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No-till Agriculture

Imagine an innovation in agriculture which saves water, reduces the use of pesticides, increases the harvest and reduces the need for labor. What sounds like an expensive new technology is in reality a centuries old agricultural practice which is based on the principle to let nature take its way.

It is simply about forgetting about tillage and letting the crops grow after sowing with minimal human influence. This is called ‘conservation agriculture’. Although this sounds a bit awkward, it really works out. Pilot projects in Lebanon, which has been struck by bad harvests in the last years, have shown that the method can be very successful. The soil quality as increased and more moisture can be stored in the soil.

A study has calculated that up to 150 US$ per hectare can be saved when applying the no-tillage method. The natural balance of the ecosystem is restored and the use of chemicals is reduced.

The dropped organic material of the plants is integrated into the soil and the natural environmental cycle is used for agricultural production.

More information under:

http://english.al-akhbar.com/node/6749

http://www.natureasia.com/en/nmiddleeast/article/10.1038/nmiddleeast.2013.169

Picture with courtesy of Alpha du centaur

https://www.flickr.com/photos/alphaducentaure/3780346817/in/photolist-4tHsHD-4tMurL-4tHsFM-cBNVNU-2AiH5W-4tHsGp-9H5ppW-63SGe3-a7Rd6R-jAcNTT-81iBCm-hq6gwo-akiTLK-h7UgGg-kxQJrU-ebNrK4-cSLSfu-8P7bYE-6L4gpp-7adwNU

Blue Economy

In the following months the 100 initial blue ideas which were first published by the Blue Economy since 2009 will be updated

After eight years of continuous research and the implementation of countless projects all over the world, it is now time to go back to the very start of the Blue Economy. In the following months the 100 initial ideas which were first published by the Blue Economy since 2009 will be updated. All the innovations have the same simple principle: imitate nature in its ability to produce no waste, no emissions and cascade everything in a closed system.

“It is our aim to share detailed information about the actual status of the projects which have been realized, based on the inputs of the Blue Economy. Some have failed, some have flourished, some are still fighting to leave the laboratory or prototype status – as in every entrepreneurial reality” says Markus Haastert, one of the initiators of the Blue Economy. In addition to this, Blue Economy will introduce several new innovations which have developed over the last few years. “For this we ask everyone to share his or her ideas with us. We are continuously looking for new ideas and projects and people who have made their own experiences with sustainable innovations” says Haastert.

Several projects have become reality since the first publication of the collection of ideas. Mushroom farming on coffee waste has become a global success story, and aquaponic-systems are being run in all possible scales. Foamglass has become a standard building material in just a few years, and bio-refineries convert waste into several valuable products. Many ideas have also entered the broad academic discourse. The research on heart-pacemakers without batteries has produced first promising results, and also the use of maggots for medicinal purposes is making big steps towards becoming a standard treatment for chronic wounds.

As the published presentation of the innovations are now updated, the aim is to integrate the experiences entrepreneurs made during the implementation of the blue ideas, to share them with the Blue Economy community and of course the public at large. At the same time, however, the cases will receive a more scientific background. For this aim, the team around Markus Haastert, Anne-Kathrin Kuhlemann and Prof. Stephan Breidenbach has been speaking to numerous scientists and researchers which have been involved in implementing the ideas of the Blue Economy.

This comes at a time when the concept of the Blue Economy is more important than ever before. The latest IPCC report warns of catastrophic consequences if emissions and waste production are not drastically reduced. The Blue Economy offers simple solutions which can be easily implemented by everyone who is just willing to try. Many start-up companies have proven that this is not just a fantasy, but reality. The aim of Blue Economy is to provide input on how products can be made with zero waste production and as little emissions as possible while creating jobs and generating social as well as monetary profits – for society and for the entrepreneurs.

The community of the Blue Economy has already developed ideas which will change humanity’s future. In the next years, Blue Economy strives to continue to do so in close collaboration with its community, which is bigger than ever before.

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Occupy Emissions Trading

The Problem:

Man-made greenhouse gas emissions which originate from all forms of industrial production processes are the major cause for climate change. In order to mitigate climate change, the European Union developed the European Emissions Trading Scheme – in short ETS. This was the response to the obligations the Kyoto protocol established for the industrialized state parties to reduce the emissions from their industry. The ETS is basically a marketplace where the biggest emitters can trade emission permits, depending on how much they emit. One permit allows the owner to emit one ton of CO2. Initially, the permits where distributed to the companies according to their history of emissions; since 2012, however, a large amount of the permits is auctioned. Once a firm own a permit, it can trade it with other firms. In this way, it is sought to set incentives to reduce emissions and earn additional income instead.

The problem with this well-intended plan is that it is very difficult to establish the ideal amount of permits to be put on the market. Indeed, this is a very complicated calculation, based on the analysis of prospective economic growth, output and energy consumption in the next trading period (usually 5 years). When the economic crisis struck, the emissions trading scheme began to fail, as the price of the permit fell to almost zero, as the economy slowed own and produced less. Therefore, one could again pollute the atmosphere for free, as it was the case before the Kyoto protocol went into force. The problem lies within the core of the system: the thresholds are set by the government, which have understandably a strong incentive to promote economic growth. Lobbyism of the big polluters further increases the amount of initially allocated permits on the market.

To summarize: the ETS has failed. One ton of CO2 costs just above 4,50 Euros on average, which is definitely now strong incentive for firms to cut emissions. By the end of 2013, the surplus permits rose to over 2 billion tons of carbon dioxide.

What is done:

As a response to the failing of the ETS, the British NGO Sandbag developed and realized a plan to change the system from within. The emissions trading takes place according to a free market approach. Therefore, everybody can basically take place in the trading of emissions.

However, in order to be able to trade on the emissions market, one needs to obtain a special license from the exchange place.

Sandbag did exactly this. And now, the organization is collection money in a form of crowd-funding and then buys emission permits at the official marketplace. However, instead of using or trading the permits, Sandbag destroys them. In this way, the organization attempts at reducing the overall amount of permits on the markets and as a result increase the price per permit. That means that everybody can reduce the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere by a couple of tons with just a few Euros.

Now imagine, what disturbance a Europe-wide action could cause on the emissions trading market!

Many companies have actually benefited from the ETS, as the initial allocation of was wrongly calculated. These “carbon fat-cats” where given too many permits in the first place and could therefore emit millions of tons of carbon dioxide for free. Now it’s time to challenge the system with its own weapons.

Further links:

http://www.sandbag.org.uk/

http://ec.europa.eu/clima/policies/ets/reform/index_en.htm

http://carbonmarketwatch.org/category/additionality-and-baselines/aau-surplus/

Picture with courtesy of Aniroudh Koul

https://www.flickr.com/photos/pjgrillo/14334983842/in/photolist-6hj2a7-eXYqej-4o6Lua-6RCHzK-mHgAHq-kSnMeh-4WL2Hk-jcqUQV-6JZ6Wu-nQJxgQ-875HzE-tRDsh-oPx831-eKL3s6-bNUNek-3BnbW-biJMrR-kQkdHS-dYYd3U-71nci7-h2F5w8-57ef3k-j3u2AQ-7BSGeq-8pRkBi-dfPrTG-hmioW3-4Mip5R-f629QN-4z3U8S-5YwTAf-h1Dxw1-pfgB4D-pVAiLx-fqY1v2-6bsLT5-8eM5iu-fiXc3s-5NtMPR-PQz3r-4xtmPE-7qjbA-ajg79B-fV5PgE-avuCBg-j7R6vY-CWJsP-5fPLMN-ieAxi4-5SQ5r8/

Stone Paper – The environmentally friendly paper of the future?

Stone Paper – The environmentally friendly paper of the future?

Producers are praising stone paper as particularly sustainable. But if all paper were replaced by stone paper, global plastic production would increase by up to two thirds! 
1409131438 Stone Paper – The environmentally friendly paper of the future? We Blue

For several years now, large stationary companies such as Oxford or Moleskine have been promoting the idea of replacing paper by so-called stone paper. Unlike common paper, stone paper is not made of wood but from pulverized limestone and plastic.  The producers are focusing their marketing on the eco-friendliness and resource efficiency of this new product. Since neither wood nor water are required for production, this “future paper” is praised as “super environmentally friendly”.

But what is really behind stone paper? Currently roughly one fifth of all cut tress are used to make paper, hence such an innovation could indeed hold great potential to reduce worldwide logging.
Stone paper consists of 60-80% calcium carbonate, i.e. pulverized limestone or marble. This raw material has been used in paper production for a long time, for example as a coating of normal paper to make it whiter and smoother. Calcium carbonate is a by-product of stone quarries and is usually considered a waste. The adhesive agent applied in stone paper is polyethylene resin, a widespread plastic also used in plastic bags or drink packaging.

As it happens, the production of stone paper requires only half the energy necessary to produce normal paper. In addition, neither bleach nor acids are used. These ecological benefits have lead to quite some attention for this new product over the past years. The product itself also has some striking characteristics: It is both tear- and waterproof, without needing the oil film regular paper would require.

However, several disadvantages are also inherent to stone paper which lead to a far inferior eco-performance than apparent at first sight. The stone components of the paper decompose after 14 to 18 months of direct sunlight; the plastic components remain and are not recovered nor biodegradable. The recycling potential of stone paper is generally a controversial question. While the producers claim that stone paper can be reused in many areas such as construction, there are critical voices stressing the fact that the plastic and stone components are leached out during recycling and end up in our wastewater. An additional plastic pollution of rivers and oceans is surely the last thing considered desirable from an ecological perspective! If stone paper is not subjected to direct sunlight, it cannot be decomposed at all.

An insightful calculation: in the year 2011, roughly 403 million tonnes of paper were produced worldwide – and the numbers are rising. If all of this paper were replaced by stone paper, and assuming the favourable case of 20% PE-components, that would amount to 81 million tonnes of plastic – at 40% PE-components it would even be 162 million tonnes. Knowing that globally, ‘only’ 250 million tonnes of petroleum-based plastic are produced every year, between one and two thirds more plastic would have to be produced every year to replace paper with stone paper. Assume we would try to substitute this PE with bioplastic, then today’s bioplastic production would have to increase by a factor of 14, i.e. 1,400 percent! About 80% of bioplastic is starch-based. Bearing in mind the devastating effect the rising demand just for the starch-source corn by biogas plants has had in many parts of the world on both rents for agricultural land as well as the corn price itself, this can hardly be considered an option.

Effectively, the production of stone paper replaces a renewable raw material with an indecomposable plastic. Due to the low distribution of this product to date, reliable data on recovery and recycling is inexistent – especially since it seems next to impossible to construe closed recycling loops for a single product.

From the perspective of the Blue Economy, products should be uncompromisingly sustainable and avoid systemic collateral damage to environment, economy and people to the greatest extent possible. In the case of stone paper, the potential contamination of water with PE-particles is simply not acceptable. Citing that the disposal through incineration causes little to no environmental damage is not good enough. ‘Blue’ products have a higher longevity and can be upcycled into a new, higher-value product at the end of their lifecycle – i.e. cascaded just like in an eco-system.

Blue Economy aspires to create value chains and networks which create more for everyone, including more jobs. If regular paper production were replaced by stone paper, jobs would simply shift from one factory to another. Assuming not petroleum-based plastic but rather ‘regional’ bioplastic were utilized, the starch plants would inevitably compete with the production of food – in a world where the amount of arable land is declining!

If stone paper is not the solution, what is a blue alternative in light of the less than ideal eco-balance of wood-based paper? The ideal solution from a Blue Economy perspective would be real biorefineries which utilize biological waste streams completely systemically, sustainably and in a socially responsible, economically attractive way. But despite many promising advancements, an industrial approach has yet to be developed. As long as biorefineries are still improving their processes in pilot plants, the recommendation is simply to resort to unbleached recycled waste paper.

Authors: Markus Haastert, Anne-Kathrin Kuhlemann
© 2014 Blue Economy Solutions GmbH

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