Turn­ing An­i­mal Waste into Pa­per

Southern Innovator - - WASTE & RECYCLING -

An­i­mal waste is a messy fact of daily life in ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties across the global South. This by-prod­uct of life has many uses but an in­gre­di­ent for mak­ing writ­ing pa­per is prob­a­bly not the first that springs to mind. But an­i­mal dung is clev­erly be­ing re­cy­cled into high-value prod­ucts in Sri Lanka and Thai­land. An­i­mal waste has many uses: it can be turned into fer­til­izer for crops and fuel for cook­ing, placed in a di­gester and fer­mented into bio­gas for heat­ing, and, cook­ing, and, if from a her­bi­vore, into fi­brous prod­ucts such as pa­per and card­board. Pack­ing boxes can also be made from the ex­cre­ment.

Since the ele­phant is a veg­e­tar­ian its ex­cre­ment or dung is made up of veg­etable mat­ter and is rich in cel­lu­lose. And cel­lu­lose is what makes up the ma­jor­ity of tra­di­tional wood-pulp pa­per.

Dung pro­duces a nat­u­ral, re­cy­cled pa­per. While har­vest­ing trees for pa­per is an ex­pen­sive and energy-wast­ing process, the ele­phant’s di­ges­tive tract does the hard work by break­ing down the cel­lu­lose, mak­ing it ideal for the next stage in be­com­ing a pa­per prod­uct.

The Ele­phant Dung Pa­per com­pany in Thai­land was one of the first to pi­o­neer the tech­nique. This busi­ness was started by dung pa­per pi­o­neer Mr. Wan Chai. He tells a story of how he be­came en­chanted by the pa­per-mak­ing process when he walked past a pa­per fac­tory one day. Later, when he was at the Thai Ele­phant Con­ser­va­tion Cen­ter in Lam­pang, north­ern Thai­land, he no­ticed that the ele­phant dung was rich in fi­bres like those used in mak­ing pa­per from wood pulp.

Another dung pa­per busi­ness is Mr. El­lie Pooh in Sri Lanka. Es­tab­lished with the goal of re­duc­ing con­flict be­tween hu­mans and ele­phants, it has turned to mak­ing pa­per prod­ucts to boost lo­cal in­comes and cre­ate a di­rect eco­nomic in­cen­tive to pro­tect the ele­phants. It is set­ting up hand­made pa­per work­shops in ru­ral ar­eas and team­ing them up with ar­ti­sans to add value to the prod­ucts

Inspired, he em­barked on a process of trial and er­ror us­ing his wife’s food pro­ces­sor to turn ele­phant dung into a fi­brous stew that is then shaped, dyed and dried to make pa­per. and make them more de­sir­able. De­sign is crit­i­cal to mak­ing any prod­uct – no mat­ter how eth­i­cally pro­duced and how green – de­sir­able to con­sumers. The dung prod­ucts that Mr. El­lie Pooh makes in­clude a wide va­ri­ety of coloured pa­pers, scrap­books, note boxes, sta­tionery pouches, greet­ing cards, “to do” list pads, memo books and a chil­dren’s book.

The process of mak­ing ele­phant dung pa­per takes about 13 days: three days of sort­ing, boiling and dis­in­fect­ing, fol­lowed by 10 days to pulp, mix, press and dry the pa­per. Mr. El­lie Pooh makes about 1,000 sheets a day and 30,000 a month. Each sheet makes six A4-size pieces of pa­per.

The com­pany was founded by Dr. Karl Wald and Thusitha Ranas­inghe and is man­aged by re­cy­cled pa­per firm Eco­max­imus based in Colombo, Sri Lanka, with a work­shop in Ke­galle. – (Jan­uary 2011)

The ele­phant ex­cre­ment is laid out flat and then dried to make pa­per.

• en­vi­ron­men­tal­pa­per.org/sta­te­ofthepa

perindus­try/con­firm.htm • ele­phant­dung­pa­per.com • changthai.com • mrel­liepooh.com • eco­max­imus.com

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