Money doesn’t grow on trees but it seems that it certainly comes from elephant Poo. This article is all about how two young local entrepreneurs Sunny Rajopadhyaya and Jonej Shakya from Kathmandu, Nepal, opted into ecofriendly and sustainable business of Elephant Poop Paper Products.
Elephant Poop or dung has multiple benefits.
Beans collected from their dung, has been washed, dried and roasted by brewers to be sold as premium coffee variety. Interestingly, it also works as mosquito repellent when a small amount is burned without causing any harm to the environment.
Yes, you heard it right “Elephant Poop Paper”!
Some of you have already known about poo paper production and its business emerging from countries like Sri Lanka, India, Thailand, Colombo, and more amid the whole world is shifting towards eco-friendly and sustainable living.
For those who don’t know about Elephant Poop Paper or Elephant Dung Paper.
What is Elephant Dung Paper?
The main thing that differentiates elephant dung product or papers from other papers lies in fibers, generally, fibers required to make papers are made out of hand or machine but in poo papers elephant pulps the fibers. Well this might be quite difficult for you to understand at this point, but don’t worry, story that these two Nepalese young entrepreneurs shared with us will definitely make you clear.
An elephant consumes 250 kgs of herbs and leaves daily, and on average, an elephant excretes 50-100 kgs of dung every day. One elephant’s dung of 50 kgs can supply around 125 sheets of [A4] paper a day.
Mr. Sunny Rajopadhyaya, held an IT job in Kathmandu. Driven by something to do in Nepal that was sustainable, and bored of a 9 to 5 job, it was on his journey to Chitwan that he would bring an idea back to Kathmandu that would go on to become a unique and successful business venture.
In Chitwan, his travel experience was immersive and igniting. After seeing a baby elephant and plenty of dung nearby, out of curiosity he asked the locals what they did with the dung.The locals replied that they have been making it into compost to some extent and use it as fuel during winter for bonfires.
He had knowledge about elephant dung paper Sri Lankan company which was producing papers out of elephant dung. Sunny told the locals that it could be a valuable resource and the use shouldn’t be limited, the people replied with not having the money to be able to utilize it.
So, Sunny brought some dung back to his home in Kathmandu and used a kitchen blender (was discarded later), and YouTube tutorials to create a prototype that turned out to be okay.
Thus, Ecoorb Initiatives was initiated. Jonej Shakya, a like-minded person interested in a clean environment, would join Ecoorb after 4 months. Being a small company who just started out, Sunny thought sustaining the business on sales of small gift items would be difficult.
As he wanted to solve the problem of packaging and reduce plastic usage, he talked with other entrepreneurs about his paper and box packaging and wrapping.
The entrepreneurs were interested to try out his packaging entailed with an intriguing story. For a few other customers who didn’t have a company or a product but still wanted to use Ecoorb Initiatives’ product, Sunny created business cards, notebooks, lampshades for those B2C customers. The company has exported its product in the form of brochures to Costa Rica for a coffee company.
How is paper made from Elephant Poop at eCoorbs?
Ecoorb’s papermaking process starts with elephant dung collection, which is soaked into Neem (Indian lilac) water overnight that acts as a disinfectant. As Elephants only digest 45% of food that it consumes, since elephants are herbivores that consume a fiber-rich diet, much of the 55% undigested material goes through them as intact fibers.
The materials are processed by its stomach acids. So, unlike making other papers, harsh chemicals aren’t needed to process raw materials since most work is done inside Elephant’s gut.
Cleaning and boiling are essential phases in the elephant dung paper-making process. At this stage all non-fibrous materials such as pebbles, gravel, dust, leaves etc. are eliminated as far as possible, so that all that remains is real fibrous material.
For 4-6 hours, the fibers are boiled to make it soft that becomes mushy later. Extreme heat is applied to ensure that the protein-based cells of any bacteria are completely destroyed.
The waste materials need to be sterilized thus, it is boiled upto temperature of 350 degree celsius and dried.The cleaning and boiling process doesn’t use any chemicals or other harsh substances like bleach or chlorine that has an adverse impact on the environment.
Hence, after the fibers have been washed and boiled, the wastewater may be reused to boil more fibers or used to nourish our plants, flowers, and gardens.
The next move is to thoroughly mix and blend the pulp fibers with other seasonally available non-wood pulp fiber material which helps to make a stronger, well-bonded sheet of paper.
These non-wood fibers, depending on the seasonal supply, can involve corn stalks, pineapple husks, grass, banana tree trunks, mulberry bark and others. Further the mixing and blending process transforms the raw pulp into a stringy, stew-filled mixture of cellulose.
Once properly mixed and blended, the off-white mixture may be added to the coloring. Non-toxic coloring of the food is used to produce dozens of different colors.
The pulp is removed from the mixing reservoir at this point, and formed into round balls of similar weight. The water is drained from the mixing reservoir and can be used for the next batch again, or used to water the vegetation around.
Screening refers to the process of using a framed screen to produce the actual sheets of paper. Since paper innovation in China in 105 AD, this method hasn’t changed significantly. The pulp mixture is poured into a large sink or water-filled basin where a framed screen is already plunged into water. With the framed screen, the papermaker collects the falling pulp fibers and then manually spreads the fibers equally over the whole screen plate.
Once the fibers are spread equally, and any small particles are removed by hand, the screen is lifted out of the basin, the water drips through the screen, and the screen is placed upright exposed to the sun to dry naturally.
For many hours, the screens lie facing the light, until the pulp has dried properly. The amount of time varies according to the weather and the sheet thickness being produced. After being dried, a freshly shaped sheet is quickly detached from the panel.
With a fresh supply of sheets removed from the screens, the next step goes in making Ecoorb Initiatives’ final elephant poo products such as notebooks, drawer boxes, packaging paper, and paper mache lamps using scissors, paper cutter, and glue. A week is needed to make a paper and it comes out odorless.
Before Ecoorb started their idea, dungs used to be thrown in the jungles of Chitwan or burned but now the waste has been efficiently managed. A collaboration was made with the local women from Green Society Nepal in which they would provide Ecoorb with the processed fibers and Ecoorb would add value to it as the paper previously made by the group wasn’t as refined to the liking of Kathmandu’s citizens.
The fiber is sourced from Sauraha and papers created in Kathmandu. Being a social enterprise, Ecoorb doesn’t want to use chemicals and doesn’t harm ecology while making papers. Using the elephant dung paper will help reduce deforestation and avoid the loss of indigenous tree populations.