The final products of Haathi Chaap are environment-friendly and odourless.
While making paper from elephant dung may seem like a revolutionary idea, it has been employed for ages in various countries like South Africa and Thailand. An entrepreneur duo from India, Mahima Mehra and Vijendra Shekhawat, worked on this idea and their brainchild, Haathi Chaap- a Jaipur-based handmade paper venture, is now the recipient of international fame.
Cow dung is put to myriad uses across India but 'paper from elephant poo'- this surely must've piqued your interest, right? If yes, then keep scrolling as we chronicle the journey of this bizarre idea!
Prints of the elephant
Vijendra, a Jaipur-based handmade paper businessman, was making his way to Amer Fort with Mahima when they spotted hordes of elephants. While Mehra was busy manoeuvring and avoiding the mounds of elephant dung, for Shekhawat, this chance encounter became a 'Eureka!' moment.
Elephants are vegetarians but their digestive tract is unable to digest the high fibre content present in plants. Hence, their dung is rich in fibre content, like wood pulp, which is used to make traditional paper. A keen researcher by nature, Shekhawat used this knowledge and began experimenting with this new material to make paper.
Haathi Chaap started operations in the early 2000s and has now expanded across India, including metro cities such as Delhi and Mumbai and overseas, including UK and Germany. With the market of sustainable and eco-friendly products increasing, this idea is yet to see its best days.
Science behind the poo paper
Sourcing the majority of raw material from elephant kept by mahouts at the Amer Fort, Haathi Chaap ensures proper sanitisation of elephant dung. Mixed with cotton in a 3:1 ratio, the final products of Haathi Chaap are environment-friendly and odourless! The manufacturing process is explained as follows-
Firstly, the dung is washed thoroughly with water in large tanks and heated with salt at a high temperature. Then, it is sanitised with hydrogen peroxide and dried out under the sun. Later, the sanitised output is fed to the Hollander Beater to convert fibre into a fine pulp. Finally, the pulp is sieved out of the water and pressed along a muslin cloth. Once a stack of 100 sheets is ready, it is dried in sunlight and its creases are straightened out.
If you are a stationery hoarder, then the colourful papers produced via organic methods, such as adding lavender and turmeric, will surely add to your collection! Further, Haathi Chaap has expanded its oeuvre by venturing into the production of bags, frames, photo albums and other knick-knacks. So while you're home during this lockdown, why not invest some time and look through the products by Haathi Chaap?!