What to do with all that poo
When we arrived in Chiang Mai, we knew it was popular for the many elephant camps that surround it. What we didn’t know was what was happening with the dung the elephants produced. In the Mae Rim area of Chiang Mai, there is a place you can visit that recycles elephant dung into paper. PooPooPaper Park uses not only elephant dung, but also horse and even panda dung to make paper used for a variety of purposes. Once we found out about this unique place, we knew we had to visit it. Hiring a songtaew, we set out for the park on a slightly rainy day. Arriving at the park, we were greeted by a friendly staff member who arranged for a free guide to show us how poo is made into paper. The tour can also be done self-guided, there are descriptive signs at every station. There are other facilities that also take dung and turn it into paper, but this is the only one that you visit and participate in the process.
Elephant made a card for you
What to with the poo, make paper products
PooPooPaper Park is an interactive open air facility. Not only can you learn how the paper is made, you get to help make it. The poo that the park uses has to meet two common requirements. Coming from a herbivore that has a highly fibrous plant diet and have a somewhat inefficient digestive system. Having an inefficient digestive system leaves a lot of fibers intact when the animal poops since the digestive systems do not digest and break down all the fiber.
Elephant poo waiting to cleaned
We were able to start participating in the process at the cleaning and boiling station. All non-fiber material such as dirt, mud, pebbles, etc is removed as much as possible until there is just fiber material left. Using a bleach-free process, the fiber is boiled to a pulp for 4-6 hours at 90-100 degrees celsius which makes it more supple. Since there is no bleach used in the process, the park does not make a paper that is truly white. A trade-off the park is happy to make since it poses no risk to the natural environment. Each step of the process is environmentally sensitive, making the paper products truly green.
Boiling the elephant poo
After cleaning and boiling the poo, it was off to the coloring and mixing station. The fiber is mixed with a color dye then shaped into a ball before it is made into paper.
Coloring the fiber
The many colors of the elephant poo balls
Playing with poo
The best part of the tour was being able to make paper. A colored poo ball was given to each of us and we mixed and agitated it until the fibers spread out over the screen. Getting to help make the paper was a very fun experience. Instead of just watching the process, we actually got to make paper ourselves. May went first. Our tour guide instructed her on the step by step process of spreading the fiber out across the screen evenly. With the help of the guide, May made a perfect piece of paper that was set out to dry. After watching May and then the one of staff make a piece of paper, it was my turn. I didn’t do as well as May, though. My paper was given a 7 out of 10. It may seem easy, but there is a certain skill to making the perfect paper.
Making poo paper
May’s poo paper
A master poo paper maker at work
Agitating the fiber
Paper in progress
All that colorful paper
Drying the poo paper
Once we were done making the paper it was time to set it out to dry. After the paper is removed from the water and drained, it is set out to dry for a couple of days. At this point, we were done with the guided tour and only thing left was to go to the crafts section. At the crafts center, you can purchase cards, wallets, or bookmarks that were premade or make your own. We decided that making our own cards would make this experience, even more unique. Making cards was fun, doing arts and crafts is a good way to relax and let our creative sides take over. Visiting was one of the more unique and fun experiences we had in Chiang Mai. Showing that environmental responsibility can take many forms.
Peeling the paper
Paper set out to dry
Stacks of paper
Supplies for our cards
May’s poo card
Josh’s poo card
Having loads of fun