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Elephant Dung Paper

Alternative, innovative, and sustainable ways to produce paper.

Nature doesn't produce unnecessary waste; everything serves the well-being of the environment.

Cellulose or wood pulp isn't the only raw material for producing paper. Indeed, there are other elements found in nature that can be similarly used for sustainable production, respecting the environment, and also reducing water consumption.

Every day, more alternatives to wood pulp paper are being created, using a whole range of materials such as cotton clothes, fruit, seaweed, and... elephant dung.

We delve into this topic in the article "Materials for Making Paper (Alternatives to Trees)."

These types of alternative paper are products of natural origin that require much less invasive processing than traditional paper and are therefore much more sustainable. Additionally, their unusual ingredients make them perfect for artistic experiments, unique prints, or even innovative packaging and gift cards. Among the most unique eco-friendly, 100% recyclable papers in the world is certainly Dung Paper, paper produced with a mixture of elephant dung and paper mill leftovers.

The company responsible for this invention is Maximus, founded in Sri Lanka in 1997 by Managing Director Thusitha Ranasinghe. It is a company that exclusively employs local labor, and indeed, with this particular paper and other organic waste, crafts numerous items. This type of crafting is done by hand and does not require special skills. The company exports about 90% of its production, and 80% of their production facilities are in rural areas of the country. Maximus is dedicated to safeguarding not only the environment but also the animals themselves, with projects supporting local wildlife and the population. Maximus's commitment has been internationally recognized multiple times. The unique process allows for the paper to be obtained through drying, boiling, pulping, and a final phase where the product is squeezed and laid out in sheets. Its distinctive characteristics are due to the high presence of fibers naturally present in elephant dung, as elephants love to eat plants, leaves, and bark.

The entire production process is eco-friendly because:

  • Only organic, non-toxic raw materials are used.

  • This type of paper avoids the felling of hectares of forest and safeguards the elephants.

  • No industrial equipment is used, which reduces the problem of toxic waste often associated with their use.

But why elephant dung?

The founder of Maximus soon realized that even elephant dung was ideal for paper production. Consider that the Sri Lankan elephant, although less massive than the African elephant, produces between 180 and 200 kg of dung per day. So what better, more abundant, and economical raw material could there be? Furthermore, elephant dung has a huge advantage: it doesn't smell! This is possible because the stomach of these herbivorous giants is very short. Their food, consisting exclusively of leaves, small branches, and brushwood, is eliminated before it ferments. The result is dung rich in fiber, the raw material for paper.

Elephant Dung Paper.

The paper is composed of 75% elephant dung. It is sterilized and bacteria-free, suitable for various uses. The difference between various batches of paper depends on the elephant's diet, age, and dental condition. The color varies depending on the consumed food: coconut, Kitul, or Jak. The texture of this eco-friendly paper depends on the elephant's chewing. Completely digested food will result in smooth paper, while less chewed food will produce coarser fibers, resulting in a rougher batch.

Sustainable paper and fair trade.

Based in rural areas of Sri Lanka including Kegalle, Kandalama, Sigiriya, and Habarna, Maximus is a fair trade organization committed to the ideals of sustainable development and the health and well-being of humans, animals, and the environment, producing elephant dung paper since 1997. For many years, there have been issues between farmers and elephant communities inhabiting rural areas of Sri Lanka. Due to the reduction of their natural habitat, elephants have caused problems for farmers by consuming their crops. The conflict between the two communities has sadly resulted in the deaths of thousands of elephants.

Overcoming these issues has been a matter of great concern for many, leading to the establishment of the Maximus Elephant Conservation Trust to promote a positive relationship between communities and elephants, aiming for "conservation through innovation". Now that dung is used to create paper, farmers and rural communities can benefit from dung collection, providing them with an economic incentive for elephant coexistence. They also employ and train local artisans to design products, promoting a mutually beneficial relationship and truly making a difference in the lives of both people and elephants.

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