pioneers Elephant dung paper
It was a casual article in a local newspaper about a Kenyan game
ranger experimenting with paper turned from elephant dung that caught
Thusitha Ranasinghe's attention.
young Sri Lankan accountant, who had joined the family's printing
business after working in other presses, was looking for a novel
idea and this was it. "This looked a good idea to develop and
I worked on it," says Ranasinghe, managing director of Maximus
(Pvt) Ltd, a Sri Lankan company that has produced the first-ever
commercial paper from elephant dung in the world.
hasn't met or communicated with the Kenyan game ranger who led to
the Sri Lankan's fortunes changing rapidly - at least to exchange
notes. However Maximus launched in 1997 has moved from strength
to strength -propelled by elephant dung and tonnes of it!
from the sale of handmade paper using elephant dung rose to Rs 19
million last year from just Rs 650,000 and Ranasinghe said they
can do more if the company produces more paper. "Ninety percent
of our production is exported," he said, adding that the project
is still a cottage industry employing about 100 people.
plant at the village of Pinnawela near Kegalle, home to the world's
pioneering elephant orphanage, uses about two tonnes of dung per
day. Ranasinghe says an elephant eats about 200 kg of dry food a
day and defecates 16 times. "So there is a lot of dung to collect,"
he said, adding that their supply comes from six elephants from
the neighbouring Millennium Elephant Foundation which maintains
a home for elderly and disabled elephants. The foundation cares
for old elephants and nurses injured ones.
the moment the daily supply is sufficient to meet demand. Maximus
- the name was derived from the zoological name for the Sri Lankan
Elephant "Elephus Maximus Maximus" - pays for the dung
at eight rupees a kg as a donation to help the foundation which
depends on charity and donations.
from using elephant dung, the company also found that many more
waste products, that were often just thrown away, could also be
used and recycled. Rice, paddy straw, cinnamon and banana bark are
all used to add flavour and colour, thus enhancing the products,
according to the company.
said 10 kilograms of dung normally produces 40 to 50 boards or 600
to 660 sheets of A4 paper. The price for six sheets of A4 paper
is about Rs. 50
colour varies with the type of food consumed - coconut, kitul (treacle)
or Jak. The texture depends on whether the elephant is able to chew
the food or not. Fully digested fibre gives the paper a smooth finish
while half digested fibre makes the paper coarser.
to Ranjit Serasinghe, one of the founders of Maximus who left the
business a few years ago, the elephant has an inefficient digestive
tract that results in 60 percent of its food not being digested.
Thus the dung is not smelly or mushy unlike dung from other animals.
"The other animal that has fibre in the dung is the rhinoceros,"
Maximus paper plant churns out paper that is manufactured using
a process that promotes environmental protection. It uses 75 percent
elephant dung and the rest is recycled waster paper.
The elephant eats jak leaves and kitul bark and initial
pulping is done naturally in the stomach. The dung is collected
and sun dried. The dropping is boiled with natural disinfectant
- margosa leaves from a medicinal plant. The dung is mechanically
pulped to perfection by Maximus. Each 10 kg of dung produces approximately
120 sheets of paper (28" x 32").
pulp is hand lifted from a papermaking vat to a couching table in
the form of a thin sheet of pulp. The variations in the elephant's
diet, age and dental state give each batch of paper a unique colour
and texture, according to company data.
in buying and using this paper, the company says, are helping to
contribute to the care of this magnificent animal which is being
driven to extinction by the loss of its natural habitat.
using this paper you can make a difference by highlighting the plight
of the majestic elephant," a company statement pasted on its
website says. Maximus also manufactures 100 percent recycled handmade
paper out of waste paper board, cotton waste, fruit and vegetable
fibres along with additives such as paddy husks, dried flowers,
straw and other materials.
says their clients are hotels in Sri Lanka and customers from Japan,
Australia, US and Canada. In the US, the company supplies visiting
cards to top US corporates. Its sales in the US were boosted after
then Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe in July 2002
gave US President George Bush a box of dung writing paper, envelopes
and name cards during a visit to the US.
Maximus chief says he set up the company from scratch - shuttling
to and fro from Pinnawela to the Industrial Development Board (IDB),
a state-run research and technology centre in southern Moratuwa
- for about nine months where the machinery to transform the dung
to paper was designed and perfected.
far as marketing was concerned, Ranasinghe was helped by the marketing
network maintained by the family's Swastika Printers, which was
already selling paper-based products to local hotels.
says that among their priorities is to raise awareness about the
tragic circumstances that surround the Sri Lankan elephant. "We
are developing strategies aimed at improving the socio - economic
situation that currently restricts under privileged people living
in rural areas," he said adding that their vision is to bring
man and elephant together in a project called "Peace Paper".
company hopes to create autonomous and self-sustaining re-cycling
plants that make Elephant dung paper from wild elephant dung.
The Sri Lankan company's innovative paper product has drawn interest
from India. K. Anilkumar, Chief Executive of Guruvayur Sreekrishna
Temple in Kerala in South India has sought advice from Maximus on
using elephant dung to produce paper after seeing an article about
the company in an Indian magazine. "We are having 63 elephants
of different sizes. I am interested to know full details of the
utilization of the elephant dung for manufacture of paper,"
he said in a letter to the company.
Elephant Dung Paper is completely safe to touch and handle.
The raw material is completely disinfected as part of a one-day
boiling process. The final product has been scientifically tested
and detailed as “Non harmful” by a Ceylon Institute
of Scientific and Industrial Research (CISIR) report.
report is available for perusal if required. The CISIR report detailed
above again concludes that the whole of the Maximus activity and
production processes are environmentally sound. No dyes or chemical
additives are used to produce the Elephant Dung paper. Only non-toxic
soil dyes are used to produce our Earth / Rainbow ranges. No bleaches
are used in any of our products.