That’s right. We are talking about paper made from elephant dung! The brainchild of retailer Mahima Mehra and Jaipur-based handmade paper producer, Vijendra Shekhawat, this pooper, christened “Haathi Chaap” meaning “Elephant Print” is creating quite an impact in Indian and international markets.
The Birth of an Idea
The thought of creating paper from elephant poo first came to the innovative duo while on a trip up the Amber Fort in Jaipur. More than a hundred pachyderms help tourists make the climb each day, inevitably leaving a lot of roughage along the way that would be of little interest to anybody other than people with curious ideas of paper-making in their heads.
“There was dry elephant dung underfoot, and suddenly, it struck us how similar it looked to the raw fibre from which we made paper” recalls Mahima. Elephants apparently have a bad digestive system, which makes their dung highly fibrous, resulting in good quality paper. After a year of experimentation of various sorts, pooper was ready for dispatch.
Elephant Poo Paper Trivia
- The colour of the paper depends on what the elephants eat, which in turn depends on the season. From June to September, when the elephants eat jowar(sorghum) and bajra (pearl millet), the paper is darker in colour than the rest of the year when they eat sugarcane.
- The manufacturing process is highly water-intensive as large amounts of water are needed to wash the dung. To make it environment friendly, this process was undertaken near cultivated land so that the waste water, enriched with dung fertilizer, could be utilized well.
- Disinfectants are added at various points during the manufacturing process to make the dung/fibre bacteria free
- Feeding the elephant beetroot and turmeric to get naturally coloured paper did not work. However, only natural or vegetable dyes are used to dye the papers, making them ecologically safe to use.
How is it made
The process of making elephant poo paper is similar to that of making any other handmade paper, with the additional challenge of disinfecting the dung thoroughly. The process is explained below:
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- Poo collection from various stables
- Cleaning of the poo in large quantities of water
- “Cooking” the washed poo for about 4-5 hours in salty water to make it soft and pliable
- Drying and sorting of the poo to remove waste
- “Pulping” takes place next by beating the fibre in the Hollander Beater for about 4 hours
- The beaten pulp is then mixed with water and lifted with a sieve to form a paper
- “Couching” takes place next wherein the sheet is placed on a muslin cloth
- The sheets are compressed in a hydraulic press and then dried completely in the shade
- Lastly the sheets are passed back and forth between rollers in a process called “calendaring”. The sheets are finally smooth and writable, and ready to be shipped to their destinations.
No it is not merely paper that elephant poo has been put to good use for. Mahima has created various other useful and innovative products using the same smelly raw material like bags, notebooks, stationery, coasters and many more. Rest assured, the final product is stink-free. They are based in Delhi and cater not only to requirements from India but Germany and UK as well!
Here are some pictures of their products:
For further information on the process of getting elephant poo paper or for checking out their product catalog please visit their website: http://elephantpoopaper.com/