the visitor first at Maximus’ Kegalle plant,
is the ease and skill, not to mention the cheer
with which the workers do their part in the process.
About 95% of the work force seem to be women and
about 99% of the work is manual thereby providing
an increased employment opportunity.
We first see the sorting, cleaning and drying
of the raw materials. “The percentage of
elephant waste and waste paper used depends on
customer requirements,” explains Production
and Operation Manager, Wibhata Wijeratne.
The waste then undergoes a process called ‘digesting’
by boiling up to 2-4 hours for fibrous raw materials
such as elephant waste, fruit and cotton waste,
whereas off-cuts, wastepaper and board need to
be soaked from 3-8 hours, which is known as ‘cold
No acids, which can be harmful to the environment,
We then move to the beating stage, where the
digested pulp is transferred to the Hollander
Beater to be crushed to a desired consistency.
At this stage, basic chemicals such as alum, China
clay, whiting, Rosin and dyes, if required are
added to yield different coloured paper.
Blue dying was in the pipeline, literally, when
we visited the Kegalle plant, but the racks showcase
a wide variety of colours from navy blue and maroon
to cream and a range of pastel shades. The beaten
pulp is then taken and poured into the lifting
vat where each sheet of paper is lifted manually.
We meet 21-year-old Dhammika who is among the
many women, in the 20- 26 age group, working here.
She lives 15 minutes from the plant and travels
wth her husband who also works there but in the
“The staff in this section are higher paid
than in other sections as we are constantly in
water and use our hands to pile the pulp onto
the screen,” she says with a smile. She
and the others in this section also carry out
the process of ‘couching’ where each
sheet of paper is laid on a felt and made into
The next step needs men for the job as each
stack is put into the screw press and pressed
to extract water. This requires a lot of energy
and force. The sheets are then separated from
the felt and hung for drying on racks for one
day. They are then exposed to a kerosene oil generated
burner for 30 minutes to ensure the stiffness
of the paper. “We considered the use of
a kerosene dryer because in the rainy season this
stage of the process tends to get affected,”
The callendering process gives the paper that
special finish where the paper is passed through
rollers under pressure in stacks with zinc sheets
separating them. As the paper slides out of this
roller, one feels its smoothness.
The paper is sometimes exported or sold in this
form or made into further value added products
for custom orders or retail sale.
Wibhata tells us that countries like UK, Japan,
Germany and especially USA use the paper mainly
as a gift wrap and design amenity. “It is
sold at a high price and is viewed as a luxury
At the products section, the team was buzzing
with an order for the Ichihara Elephant Zoo in
Japan, which had ordered photo frames.
Every zoo in Japan and some in other countries
too have counters specially reserved for Maximus’
Susantha and Nissansala, aged 23 and 22 respectively
are the two young people responsible for designing
“We use our imagination and creativity.
We have not been to any designing school,”
they smile. Nissansala also designs invitation
cards and shows us copies of what she might use
for her own upcoming wedding!