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Maximus director Thusitha Ramsinghe
"It was a natural step"
 real 28k

Thursday, 5 July, 2001, 13:45 GMT 14:45 UK
Pachyderm paper makes a statement
Elephants in Sri Lanka
Elephants are one of Sri Lanka's most abundant natural resources
The next time you are in the Sri Lankan capital and you receive an invitation to cocktails, watch out. Your embossed card may just be published on paper made out of elephant dung.

A company in the island nation is now finding new ways to recycle elephant waste, turning it into a moneyspinner and a great conversation starter.

You could call [the elephant] a four-legged pulp machine

Maximus director Thusitha Ramsinghe
The company, Maximus (apparently named after the Asian elephant - elephas maximus) stumbled upon the idea when their managing director read about a Kenyan game ranger who used elephant waste to make paper.

Thusitha Ramsinghe said the animal is one of Sri Lanka's most widely available resources - his own factory's closest neighbours were several "retired" elephants, serving out their time.

Mr Ramsinghe told the BBC that the process of pulping actually takes place in the elephant's stomach itself.

"We realised that the elephant's dung contained a high degree of cellulose in it. It was a natural step that we should experiment with elephant dung to make paper," he said.

Processed dung

And so Maximus came up with its innovative process.

The fresh dung is sorted, dried in the sun, boiled and the pulp is then pressed to make sheets of paper.

Dung paper in easy steps
Collect fresh dung
Sort it
Dry it in the sun
Boil it
Press pulp to make paper
The company has also perfected the art of identifying the dung according to the elephant's diet - which in turn allows them to generate different types of paper.

"You could call [the elephant] a four-legged pulp machine," Mr Ramsinghe said.

Maximus markets the paper - which costs slightly more than paper imported into Sri Lanka - to make greeting cards, menus, invitations and other fancy items.

And their client's include some of Colombo's high end users - the Hilton hotel, Srilankan airlines, HSBC, the Bank of Ceylon and others.

Greeting cards
Next time you buy a card you could be in for a surprise
"Consumers are willing to pay the extra premium because it is a unique paper and it could be used to make a statement to highlight the plight of the elephant," Mr Ramasinghe added.

Most of the users are pleasantly surprised, according to the Maximus managing director.

And those that are put off?

"We tell them that it is properly sanitised and safe," he adds with a chuckle.

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See also:

15 Jan 01 | South Asia
Sri Lanka's jumbo war
10 Jul 00 | South Asia
Orphaned elephants go wild
25 Apr 00 | Asia-Pacific
Lives of neglect and misery
03 Dec 98 | Entertainment
Elephant dung artist scoops award
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