Overcoming hurdles, a group of differently challenged persons in hilly tea town of Munnar are generating revenue making eco-friendly papers using elephant dung, which is finding good demand, especially among foreign tourists.
Members of ‘Athulya’, a handmade paper unit under Srishti Welfare Centre in Munnar supported by Tata Global Beverages, are making paper using jumbo poop after recycling it.
Besides dung and cotton cloth waste, a handful of natural ingredients, including eucalyptus leaves, marigold flowers, coconut husks, leaves of exotic plants and pineapple fronds are used to make eco-friendly paper in the unit, located only a few km from Munnar town.
Malathi Bhaskar, an official with ‘Athulya’, said all office stationery, including a variety of paper, paper bags, writing pads, envelopes and paper files are made in the unit.
Papers, made using ingredients like marigold petals, lemon grass, tea waste and elephant poop, have many takers, she said.
“All products are made by disabled youngsters including physically and mentally challenged ones. Majority of waste materials are collected from tea estates in and around Munnar,” Malathi told.
“All workers in the unit are differently challenged people. They have got expert training in the making of paper. There are 37 people, including 16 women, working here,” she said.
On manufacturing process of paper from elephant poop, she said the dung is collected, recycled and disinfected by workers. The non-fibre content is removed later.
Cotton rags, starch, caustic soda and so on are added to the recycled dung to make the paper soft. The mixture is later pressed into sheets of papers and dried in natural shade, she said.
The dung-paper would be thicker than ordinary papers and four times broader than A4 sheets. An average of 500-1000 sheets of papers are made monthly at the unit.
The ingredients would not be the same every month and it would vary in seasons according to the availability, she said.
“Initially we collected dung with the help of watchers from tea plantations, where elephants used to stray in. Now, we collect it directly from the elephant park here,” she said.
Considering the labour put into the complex manufacturing process, the price of the elephant dung paper is comparatively high, Malathi said.
“We charge Rs 50 per sheet. But they have many takers, especially foreigners,” she said.
Besides ‘Athulya’, ‘Aranya’, the natural dying unit, ‘Nisarga’, the strawberry preserve unit, ‘Deli’, the confectionary unit, are the other wings manned by differently abled persons under Srishti Trust.