Pandas make lots of poop. Now, most of that waste will be turned into lots of paper.
Pandas are popular for their uniquely fuzzy gray scale appearance with an almost universally agreed upon cuteness. Now these adorable bears may provide us with something practical. The origin for this paper comes from a seemingly unlikely, but abundant and renewable source, their plentiful panda poop.
Giant pandas are still so rare they’re considered endangered, with about 3,000 pandas thought to live in the wilds of mainland China. Their diet consists almost exclusively of bamboo. In a giant panda reserve in southern China, researchers want to process huge amounts of that fiber rich panda dung into paper.
China is historically regarded as the global motherland of paper conception. Paper is considered one of the four great inventions from Ancient China. As paper spread slowly into other cultures, it caused puzzlement. Even after seeing and handling it themselves, most couldn’t figure out how it was made. Initially, the Chinese were reluctant to reveal their secrets of paper manufacturing. Now with this new project, the Chinese are poised to be the only people capable of producing this singular type of paper.
Chengdu Giant Panda Breeding Base in Sichuan province is the place where researchers hatched the idea of panda poop paper. Lia Jun, a researcher at Chengdu revealed the inspiration came about after visiting Thailand, where it was seen that paper was made from elephant dung. Immediately, it was theorized that panda poop could produce a much higher quality of paper.
Over 40 bamboo fed pandas make their home at Chengdu Breeding Base with about 2 tons of panda droppings being produced each day. Currently, the base is talking with paper mills on how to turn the droppings of Jing Jing, Ke Bi, Ya Ya and other pandas at the base into reams of office paper and rolls of wrapping paper, Liao said.
“We are not interested in doing this for the profits but to recycle the waste,” said Liao. “It’s environmentally friendly. We can use the paper ourselves, and also we can sell whatever is left over.” What about a yuck factor? Will people reject paper produced from panda poop? “People won’t find it gross at all,” Liao said. “They probably won’t even be able to tell it’s from panda poop.”
Panda poop paper really isn’t all that new. Chiang Mai Zoo in northern Thailand currently sells multicolored paper produced from the excrement of two resident pandas. The process takes an entire day and involves cleaning up the dung, boiling it in a soda solution, bleaching it and then drying it.
In our increasingly green conscious world, what better way to write off waste than by turning it into paper? Who knows, maybe we’ll devise a way of making puppy poop useful. Just imagine what all that pooper scooper time could mean to us if doggie do was able to be recycled into something usable.