The Making of Elephant Poo Paper in Chiang Mai

Elephant PooPoo Paper Park

Paper products made from elephant poop, What?! Yep, you heard that right! Elephant PooPoo Paper Park is an eco-friendly outdoor museum that lets you interactively experience how paper is made from elephant dung. You can get a tour that takes you through the eight steps in how they make Elephant Poo Paper.Elephant PooPoo Paper Park EntranceElephant Poop

Poo Fiber ShedElephant Poo

The Elephant PooPoo Paper Park uses several different kinds of animal poop from horses, cows, and elephants. Why all of these animals? They are all herbivores that have high fiber diets of bamboo, sugar cane, grasses, banana trees, leaves, etc. They also all have inefficient digestive systems that don’t completely breakdown the fibers that they eat. Which leaves a tremendous amount of waste to be recycled. And that is where this facility comes in. Heather holding elephant poop

Cleaning & BoilingHeather stirring elephant poo

Cleaning and boiling are one of the important steps in the papermaking process. All non-fiber material needs to be removed before the boiling process. The cleaned fibers are boiled for 4-6 hours (at 90-100 degrees) which makes them softer and easier to manipulate. This process destroys any bacteria left in the fibers.  There are no chemicals used in the cleaning and boiling process and the wastewater is recycled to boil more fibers or water the plants and flowers around the park. Dried elephant poo fibers

Mixing & ColoringMixing the Fibers with color

The mixing process takes the poo pulp fibers and combines them with coconut fibers, other non-wood fiber materials, and recycled elephant poo paper to make the fibers stronger. This helps the elephant poo fibers bond into a sheet of paper. After mixing the multiple kinds of fiber, coloring (non-toxic food coloring) is added to make dozens of different colors. The water is removed and recycled from the fibers and the result is smooshed into a ball for the next step. Fibers and colors used for mixing with the elephant poo fibersColors of the Elephant Poo Fibers

Sheet ScreeningSheet Screening Process

Screening is the process of making physical sheets of paper using a framed screen. This traditional method of making paper hasn’t changed significantly since it was invented in China in 105 AD. The pulp fiber ball is placed into a framed screen submerged in water. Then you have to physically break up the fibers and smoosh them to take up every available space in the framed screen. Once this is completed the framed screen is lifted out of the water and taken outside to dry upright in the sun. The drying time for the paper fibers is several hours. When it is completely dry you can easily press with your thumbs along the back and peel the paper from the framed screen.Breaking up the Elephant fibersBreaking up the Elephant fibers 2

Drying Elephant Poo Paper in Framed Screens

Elephant Poo Paper drying in the sunlight

CraftingPaper press

Now that you have a stack of pretty, colorful sheets of elephant poo paper, you can start cutting the paper into shapes and different sizes. This is also where the gluing, binding, decorating, and printing happens in the process. The Elephant PooPoo Paper Park creates many different Elephant Poo Paper products such as journals, greeting cards, photo displays, and even passport holders.Finished Elephant Poo Paper ProductsColorful stack of Elephant Poo Paper

Finished Product

Elephant Poo Paper Products DIY station

The last pavilion you go through on the tour gives you plenty of options to choose from if you want to decorate your own elephant poo paper product. Prices are all listed on the type of paper product and all the decorations are free for you to add. Let your imagination go wild here. This is a great way to take home a souvenir that you created. I enjoyed decorating a few pieces to take home myself.Elephant Poo Paper Products DIY station 2Elephant Poo Paper Products DIY station 3

Elephant PooPoo Paper ParkElephant Poo Paper Drying in Elephant PooPoo Paper Park

The tour last about an hour, but you can spend more time here if you want to explore the organic gardens, fish pond and or just enjoy sitting at the Adobe Cafe. There are some interesting photo opportunities all around the grounds. Plus, you can’t leave without browsing in the gift shop for more elephant poo paper gifts.

Visiting the Elephant PooPoo Paper Park is a great way to learn about the 5000 years of papermaking history, locally available fiber materials, and Thailand’s rich heritage of artisanship to develop the unique recycled alternative paper products made from elephant poop. There is a lot of papermaking history throughout the museum especially educating everyone on the destruction that the paper industry has made on the depletion of the forests. There are alternatives that can and should be looked at with sustainable use of resources and re-using and recycling in innovative ways like the Elephant PooPoo Paper Park does. But the best message that you can learn from visiting this park is “We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.” And my favorite message is to “Be the Change you wish to see in the world.

Elephant PooPoo Paper Park Fish Pond

Adobe CafeElephant PooPoo Paper Park Gift Shop

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Further Reading

If you would like to see more of my nomad travels, check out my post on my first month of traveling full-time: One Month of Nomad Travel. If you are coming to Thailand for a visit, check out these posts:

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