From stories about flatulence, we move on to the next logical topic, i.e., excreta and how to make those into environmentally friendly products.
Via Nathistory-India, comes this story of an eco-friendly enterprise in India which is turning a profit on converting elephant dung (that copious high-fiber material) into fine organic paper! Oddly enough, there doesn't seem to be much of a demand for this elephant-dung paper within India, although there is a reasonably good market in the EU and USA.
Here's an extract from the Indian story:
Vijendra Singh Shekhawat has struck gold by turning the dung left behind by the 200-odd elephants into paper.
Indians might be squeamish about paper made from “elephant poo” — as the stamp on the sheets declares — but Shekhawat has found that it is a hit abroad. The paper is exported to Germany and the UK.
“My family has been in the handmade paper business for years,” Shekhawat said. “We used to make paper out of cotton waste before I discovered elephant dung five years ago.”
Dung paper has increased Shekhawat’s income by 20 per cent.
The idea of turning elephant waste into paper dawned on Shekhawat while he was driving past Amber Fort one day. “I saw the dung spread across the road and noticed that there was a lot of fibre,” he said.
Shekhawat did not waste time and began experimenting immediately. But it took him eight or nine months to finally figure out the right proportions.
The process is the same as making any handmade paper.
After collecting the dung — only the best quality, which comes at Rs 2,000 a trolley, will do — it is cleaned in water tanks so that only the fibre remains.
Softer after being cooked, the fibre is dried and sorted. Then it is put into moulds on which muslin cloth is pressed to make paper.
“The colour of the dung varies depending on the fodder the elephant is eating,” Shekhawat said.
He has tried feeding the elephants different types of food to get different colours. But so far, the animals have stuck to their regular diet of sugarcane and jowar.
It may not surprise you to learn, perhaps, that Shekhawat has merely reinvented this particular wheel. As it happens, enterprising folks in Thailand and Sri Lanka have been making elephant dung paper for some time now. The Thai Elephant Conservation Center, for example, has been selling elephant dung paper products to raise money for the center with the tagline "elephant dung helping elephants" (again, I might add, for surely it helped them once already?)! They didn't just stop with paper and paper products, though: just peek into the store of their US distributor to find a whole range of other elephant-related products including original paintings by elephants. And yes, of course, these works of art are on elephant-dung paper. In fact, at the top of this very post, you are looking at an example still available for purchase (at a bargain price of a mere $157.00 US)!
And if the concept of elephants painting art is new to you, check out one of the numerous videos showing them in the act available right here on these internets!
As for the recycled dung paper, the concept doesn't stop with just elephants, of course. There are plenty of other herbivores with equally cellulose-rich output, and you can get handmade paper from many different kinds, including rhinos and (of course) kangaroos!
Who knows, you might even find toilet paper made out of recycled herbivore poo... wouldn't that be a symbolic way of closing the circle!