Recycling enthusiasts from around the world prove that you can do much more with the feces of herbivores than to fertilize the field: They turn elephant, cow and sheep dung into lovely paper.
Which naturally raises a question: How does it smell?
“Neutral”, assures Michael Flancman. The Canadian lives for around 10 years in Thailand where he founded the company “Alternative Pulp & Paper“. Since 2005 he produces “Poopoopaper”. “Most of our first time customers typically pick up our products immediately and smell them. After their initial sniff they wonder why the paper doesn’t smell bad. The explanation is simple: Feces of animals that eat plants smell anyway much less than the dung of carnivores. And the fibres generated from the dung have been processed (cleaned and boiled) into a pulpy cellulose material.”
The fact that the poo-poo of some animal species is suitable for paper production, is due to their feeding behaviour and metabolism. Elephants, horses, kangaroos, moose, reindeer and other four-legged vegetarians consume daily large amounts fibrous plant material such as grass, herbs and leaves. Since their digestive system is relatively inefficient a large part of the fibres is excreted undigested.
How much “raw material” an animal provides in this way depends of course mainly on its size. An elephant that eats around 200 kilograms of plants per day produces around 50 kilograms of manure – enough to make about 115 sheets of paper.
“We wash and boil the dung into a pulp. Then we reinforce it with about 15 percent of other plant fibres from the region, e.g. the non-edible parts of banana trees. If we colour the paper we use natural food colours. Then the paper is skimmed off and processed further”, explains Flancman. His company collects most of the animal dung from elephant conservation parks and farms in the surrounding countryside.
Flancman is not alone with his business idea. The American company ” Dung and Dunger ” processes bison dung, “Creative Papers” in Tasmania works with kangaroo shit. In Sweden some small manufacturers turn moose dropping into paper. “Sheep Poo Paper” in Wales brings sheep dung from the pastures in the paper mill. In England “The Exotic Paper Company” sells reindeer and rhino – paper. In addition to writing paper, greeting cards and photo albums some companies offer already paper that can be used in a normal printer.
Hopefully the concept finds several more imitators. Making paper from animal dung is original and environmentally sound business idea that could prevent some trees from being cut down for the paper industry and at the same time help zoos, farms and equestrian facilities to get rid of large amounts of animal manure.