One of the major contributors to the waste produced at homes, work and schools is paper. If you’ve used it once you can turn it over and use the other side, but that’s pretty much it before it becomes another piece of rubbish. It’s estimated that over 2 million trees are cut down every DAY, with the majority of this going towards our global rate of paper consumption. However, the great news is that more and more wood pulp paper alternatives are being created every day, from a whole range of materials like cotton clothes, fruits, seaweed, and as you might’ve already guessed… elephant dung.
If you’re looking for eco-friendly materials, elephant poo might not have been the first thing you thought of. But with an adult elephant producing up to 200kg a day, it’s certainly not hard to come by! A highly sustainable option, even the production for elephant dung paper uses less energy, water, and produces lower carbon emissions than the manufacturing process used to create regular paper.
So, how is it made? As elephants are herbivores, the waste they produce is essentially raw cellulose. Once the dung has been collected it’s boiled with margosa leaves, a natural disinfectant. After this sterilisation it’s mixed with recycled paper to produce a smoother surface. There’s around 75% dung and 25% recycled paper in all the products they create for us, making it a 100% natural material.
Depending on the elephant’s age and diet each piece of paper has an entirely unique colour and texture. The colour of the paper comes from the food they consume: coconut, kithul, or jak. The texture depends on the elephants age as the older they are, the more worn their teeth are, meaning the fibre is less digested and the paper will have a rougher texture. Each sheet of paper really is as unique as the elephant that helped to produce it!
The paper inside our notebooks, memo holders and photo albums are crafted from rice husk. With a much finer grain, it means the paper is far smoother and closer in texture to regular wood pulp paper, so you can write, doodle and sketch away until the pages are full. While we wouldn’t recommend fountain pens for this type of paper, it works great with pencils, biros, gel pens and even watercolours.
Elephant dung paper is also chlorine and acid-free, as it is manufactured in an ecologically safe manner. Like all our other producers, the brilliant Maximus Elephant Conservation Trust (or Eco Maximus) is a Fair Trade organisation, committed to the ideal of sustainable development and the health and well-being of humans, animals, and the environment.
Based in rural areas of Sri Lanka including Kegalle, Kandalama, Sigiriya, and Habarna, Maximus have been producing elephant dung paper since 1997. For many years there were issues between the farmers and the communities of elephants who inhabit the rural areas of Sri Lanka where the foundation is based. Due to a reduction in their natural habitat, the elephants created issues for the farmers by eating their crops. The conflict between the two communities sadly resulted in the deaths of thousands of elephants. Overcoming these issues was a source of major concern for many, and so the Maximus Elephant Conservation Trust was founded to foster a positive relationship between the communities and the elephants, aiming for ‘conservation through innovation’.
Now that the dung is used to create paper, the farmers and rural communities are able to make money from collecting the dung, providing them with an economic benefit to the elephant’s cohabitation. They also employ and train local artisans to design the products, furthering the mutually beneficial relationship and making a real difference to the lives of both the people and the elephants.
If that wasn’t enough, a percentage of the trust’s profits are donated to the Millennium Elephant Foundation (MEF), a small charity that maintains a safe home for sick, old, and disabled elephants. Without the care they receive at the foundation these elephants are particularly vulnerable. By buying and using elephant dung paper products, you’re actively contributing to improving the outlook for the majestic elephants of Sri Lanka. Make sure to take a look at Eco Maximus for more information about their incredible work.
Take a look at our full elephant dung range to find the perfect unique, quirky gift for your elephant-loving loved ones. You’ll find all the products we’ve talked about and more, including notebooks, photo albums, greeting cards, letter writing sets, and even photo frames. And if you’ve been lucky enough to receive an elephant dung gift, make sure to tag us in your photos at @paperhighuk on Instagram and Facebook.