Plant fibers (typically from trees) are the usual base material used in making pulp for paper production. However those plant fibers don’t have to come unprocessed directly from the plant. The fibers can actually be gathered after being processed by certain animals and delivered for paper-making in their poop.
Paper products can be made from the poop of a variety of different fiber-eating herbivores including elephants, cows, horses, moose, pandas, and donkeys. These animals eat lots of vegetation everyday and they are prolific poopers. Since the digestive systems of these animals don’t break down the vegetation very well, their poop contains plenty of fiber even after their meal is consumed. They are basicaly doing the first stage of any paper making process – getting the fibers. Elephants, for example, can eat upwards of 250kg per day of fiber-filled meals with much of that passing through their systems largely intact. It is estimated that one elephant can produce enough poop to make about 115 sheets of paper per day.
From poop to paper
Although the source may be different, the process of making paper is not that different from making it from conventionally acquired fibers.
First, the poop is collected, then rinsed and boiled to a pulp. The solution is then blended or spun to soften and cut the fibers. Other things such as dye and/or other fibrous materials may be added to give the solution the proper consistency.
The slurry is then sifted onto rectangular sieves and allowed to dry. When dry, the thin layer of plant fibers is peeled off the sieve and made into raw sheets and rolls of paper.
Using paper made from poop is a fantastic example of sustainable and recycling practices and solutions to our environmental challenges.
You say your job is rough – try chasing an elephant down to catch his poop.
~Source: Gordon Pritchard