Atlanta Business Chronicle | Tree-free paper company exec fills demand

Atlanta Business Chronicle | Tree-free paper company exec fills demand

A version of this article appeared in Atlanta Business Chronicle.

Paper comes from trees. That is a fact people learn early in life. Michael Nilan is working to change that.

A self-proclaimed “tree hugger,” Nilan has created TreeZero Paper Co., an Atlanta-based company that produces and distributes sustainable 100 percent tree-free paper solutions to the office supply, printing and packaging industries. Instead of trees, the paper is made from sugar cane waste product.

“This is the ideal way to produce paper. Clearly, we have the most sustainable paper product in the world,” Nilan said. “Our goal is to become the leading provider of sustainable paper products all made from sugar cane waste.”

TreeZero was founded in 2009 to address the growing need for environmentally sustainable practices in the paper industry.

“I am a businessman and entrepreneur along with being someone who cares about the environment,” he said. “My partner, Ed Kennedy, and I were doing a project in China and we found a paper made from sugar cane and bamboo. … Copy paper and packaging paper is a high-volume and high-velocity product so we knew it would make a big impact.”

But the men ran into quality problems with the product so they continued their quest to find a tree-free product. That led them to South America, where they found a mill manufacturing paper from 95 percent sugar cane and 5 percent pine.

“But we had already named the company TreeZero so that 5 percent pine presented a problem,” Nilan said. “We worked with engineers to remove the pine and ended up with a product that works in manufacturers’ machines and is consistently a better quality than recycled paper. And because recycled paper has been so heavily processed, our product is actually easier on copy machines. We believe this can save millions in copy machines maintenance fees.”

TreeZero’s copy paper is being sold to FedEx, Staples, Office Depot, Emory University and other entities that have a sustainability initiative.

Individuals can purchase TreeZero through