Seoul zoo will turn poop into paper

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Seoul zoo will turn poop into paper

How much animal feces does the Seoul Grand Park produce every day? The answer is 3 tons. For years, the zoo has mixed it with hay to make a natural fertilizer.

“Dealing with the byproducts of animals is a fundamental problem for zoos all around the world,” says Ahn Yeong-no, director of the Seoul Grand Park.

But recently, the zoo has found a whole new use for the waste of at least one type of animal, its five elephants.

Seoul Grand Park’s “Action Zoo” project will produce paper and eco-friendly burnable pellets from elephant dung. Paper producer Martello’s President Jeon Chung-hun and Coffee Factory President Na Yong-hun, who’s in charge of pellet production, have joined the project.

The JoongAng Ilbo met the two 41-year-olds earlier this week at the Seoul Grand Park.

Jeon learned of paper produced from elephant dung in 2008.

“I began importing Sri Lankan products, and one of the hottest items was paper made from elephant dung,” Jeon said.

He flew to Sri Lanka and learned how to make it. When the Seoul Grand Park held a festival last year, he ran a booth that allowed people to help make the paper, which drew a great deal of attention.

An elephant eats grass and it doesn’t digest food well. The average elephant in the wild excretes about 100 to 150 kilograms (220 to 330 pounds) of feces a day and they are mostly fiber. They don’t have a strong smell. From that one animal’s waste, 300 sheets of A4-size paper can be produced.

Elephants at zoos actually produce less waste because they eat fruit as well as grass.

Jeon says the process is simple.

“You just wash the dung, gather the fibers, boil them with some salt and then dry them,” Jeon says. “Producing elephant dung paper is a long tradition in Thailand and Sri Lanka.”

Na will be making pellets, a new type of renewable energy source.

“Coffee grounds absorb scents and they are great fuel by themselves because they contain oil,” Na explains. “Mixing coffee grounds with less stinky elephant dung will make great fuel.”

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