Our very first tour at the workplace, where our Elephant poo paper notebooks are made, was probably the funniest. There’s no organized tours or anything, your guides are either an old, wise, extremely enthusiastic former employee of the paper factory who always sits there reminiscing old times and telling stories to volunteers and school kids on visit or the lady from the gift shop when there’s not much happening on here sid. For our first tour, we got the lady.
That kind middle-aged lady probably spoke a handful of English words. And a specific handful: dung, dry, cook, fibers, paper! Oh and tea! Obviously.
Anyway enough English words to show us where the poo was dried, cooked, filtered and mixed with recycled rice paper! And where the women would sit together to drink some tea in their break 🙂
Let’s take a closer look at the journey the poo takes from well, being a 2kg dense fibrous object to beautiful, environmental friendly, fair-trade notebook!
It all starts in the night area where the elephant, just like an overweight tooth fairy, leave about 150-200 kg worth a gift in the bed. Overnight. That’s still insane if I think about it now :O
The next morning a squad of volunteers arrive at an early hour to get down to business and clean the area, disinfect it, prepare it for the next night and do some maintenance if needed. Some of the poo found in the bed is collected in wheelbarrows and brought to the paper factory, freshly collected in the morning!
The fresh dung is broken down into pieces with a hoe and spread to dry in the heavy Sri Lankan sun till it looks like soil.
At that point, it’s time to run some fire under a giant container where all the dried dung get boiled. Here’s exactly where the magic happens. This process disinfects the dung, and works it until the only thing left is a pulp of fibers.
This pulp is then mixed with 70% recycled rice paper. Pressed together. Squeezed to eliminate the remaining water and hang to dry.
And voilá. “Habemus chartam”, Latin for we’ve got ourselves some dope sheets of paper, ladies and gents (I might have added some extra words here and there in that translation 🙂 ).
I have to say the blank sheets of paper is only half of the story. Here comes in the incredible talent, dedication, creativity and work ethics of the 30 Sri Lankan women working at the paper factory. They hand-make all the products you see on our shop. All the little drawings, details on the covers, ornaments etc. Simple details that make each and every product unique. Even if that was once just a big ball of fibers the elephant had to get rid of…