Last week, as the US raised a stink about China's paper imports, placing high tariffs on certain glossy papers, researchers in Sichuan province announced they were looking to manufacture a new breed of the stuff--made out of panda poop. According to the Associated Press,
Liao Jun, a researcher at the Chengdu Giant Panda Breeding Base in Sichuan province, said the idea came to them after a visit to Thailand last year where they found paper made from elephant dung. They thought panda poop would produce an even finer quality paper, he 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."
Do we smell a poo-paper rivalry brewing between China and Thailand?Actually, in addition to elephant dung poo from pandas at Thailand's Chiang Mai zoo has been used for months to make souvenir cards and fans (see photo above), in a technique similar to the one that for thousands of years has turned mulberry trees into paper. Since the panda's staple food is fiber-heavy bamboo, and since panda's only digest about 20 percent of their food, their dung can be turned into paper after a process that involves cleaning the feces, boiling it in a soda solution, bleaching it with chlorine and drying it under the sun. And no, the finished product doesn't smell bad at all--it even has a slight whiff of bamboo. Back in China, where paper-making was largely invented, the only question now is who will produce it--the breeding station is in talks with several paper mills now about processing their daily output of 2 tons (!) of poop per day, and they hope to have a product line available by next year. And whatever becomes of the US-China paper war, lets hope that both countries continue to figure out ways to recycle or reduce paper use--and sign their next trade agreement on you know what.
Of course, no post on pandas is complete without some cute panda video. No pooping here, just some shots of Sichuan's panda kindergarten!