Elephant Dung Paper

Elephant Dung Paper

I thought I was good at reusing discarded objects and turning them into interesting craft projects, but I have to admit that I have my limits.  They say that necessity is the mother of all invention, and severe need has certainly created one of the most unusual forms of recycling in Thailand.

In terms of craft projects Elephant Dung Paper (EDP) has to be one of the strangest, but I can't help be intrigued...

Apparently this is one of Thailand's great conservation efforts.  What most of us would look at and see as an atrocious heap of poop, they look at and see the beginning of a wonderful, 100% recycled paper product.
 
As much as three tons of elephant dung is recycled into hand-made paper by the Thai Elephant Conservation Center daily. This is beneficial to the refuge since the natural waste is no longer a disposal problem. Additionally, the industry provides much needed jobs for the local villagers and brings in close to $300,000 per year in revenue! In the current climate of financial crisis, this is one business that doesn't have to worry about buying in resources to meet their turnover.  The average elephant produces roughly 110 pounds of dung per day, which can be transformed into 115 sheets of paper.
 
You may be alarmed by the sanitary implications of dung paper, but rest assured there is nothing to fear or even become disgusted by.  Since elephants do not fully digest their food, the bulk of their waste consists of vegetation fibers which is where the process of making paper begins. The dung is thoroughly washed and sanitized and the fibres extracted. Although it may be hard to believe, the paper that is produced from elephant dung does not smell at all and is 100% bacteria free.

In keeping with being environmentally friendly, no chlorine is used to manufacture Elephant Dung Paper. An environmentally safe hydrogen peroxide solution is used instead. You can view a video of the paper making process here.
 
Rainbow Gifts-USA has been the sole distributor in North America for Elephant Dung Paper products originating from the refuge in Lampang, Thailand. They are a family owned and operated company who gives back a portion of their profits to the families who work at the elephant refuge. Rainbow gifts offers a wide selection of EDP products, including (but certainly not limited to) various papers, boxes, picture frames, bookmarks, notebooks and journals. The paper colors available are similar to any other form of paper you may be accustomed to.
 
EDP can be used for many types of arts and craft projects, as well as stationary (if you are corresponding with anyone too squeamish, you might not want to divulge the origin of the paper). If this sounds interesting to you, but you are not quite convinced, there is plenty more information available. Although some of you may feel this whole concept is taking recycling to a rather odd extreme, you must admit the idea is rather ingenious. 

Although it hardly needs saying, as most of you won't have a pet elephant, please don't try this craft project at home!