Atlanta Magazine | Atlanta-based TreeZero produces tree-free paper

Atlanta Magazine | Atlanta-based TreeZero produces tree-free paper

The product is created from a sugercane-processing byproduct

A version of this article appeared in Atlanta Magazine.

Michael Nilan has never been one to overlook a great idea. In 2010, while on a business trip to China, the entrepreneur stumbled across a plant that produced paper without using a single tree. Inspired, Nilan shuttered his old business, which outsourced jobs for American companies like Tropicana and Westinghouse, and cofounded Atlanta-based TreeZero, which produces and distributes tree-free paper to both consumers and organizations. Its customers include Aflac and the CDC.

After discovering quality-control issues at the China plant, Nilan and his partner Ed Kennedy located another mill in South America, but its formula included 5 percent pine—a problem for a company already incorporated as TreeZero. No matter: The pair worked with engineers to eliminate pine from the equation before signing an exclusive contract with the mill.

TreeZero makes high-quality paper from a sugarcane-processing byproduct that is typically dumped in a landfill or incinerated. The production process is not just ecofriendly—it actually helps the environment.

The paper industry, including local giant Georgia-Pacific, has long presented recycled paper as ecofriendly. But according to Nilan, TreeZero performs better—leaving less dust in printers and absorbing ink crisply—because it has never been remanufactured.

This article originally appeared in our November 2014 issue under the headline “Sweet”

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

Mother Nature Network | Review: Tree-free copy paper

Mother Nature Network | Review: Tree-free copy paper

TreeZero’s copy paper is made without any tree products.

A version of this article appeared in Mother Nature Network.

Although you may know how to reduce paper waste in your office through double-sided printing and other measures, there is yet another way to save the trees — tree-free copy paper. Yes, that’s right, tree-free copy paper.

No tree-based wood fibers are used to create the product, instead the paper is made completely from sugar cane fibers.  You can recycle TreeZero paper with the rest of your paper products, but you have another recycling option due to the product’s 100 percent sugar cane base — composting. The product is compostable, so once you’re done with the paper simply put it in your compost bin and you’re done!

Deforestation has been a concern for decades and despite educational campaigns, it remains an issue today. TreeZero is proud to say that no trees have been harmed in making their product. While sugar cane is a renewable source and it can be harvested twice a year, TreeZero does not harvest sugar cane for paper production. Instead, the company uses sugar cane byproducts to make its ISO 9001 certified paper.

My family was able to test this sugar cane paper throughout the month of October, and here’s what we thought:


  • Tree-free: This was particularly interesting to my tree-loving children.
  • Compostable: The ability to put the paper in the compost bin instead of setting it aside for recycling is extremely convenient.
  • Texture: I’m a fan of the texture of this paper. While traditional copy paper is slick there is a noticeable texture to this paper, which makes it easier to handle, especially when working with multiple sheets at one time.
  • Standards: The paper is the standard 8.5 x 11 in size with a 20-pound weight. This is perfect for printers, copiers and paper-based fax machines. My inkjet printer readily accepted the paper because it is the standard size and weight of traditional copy paper.