Sustainable Paper from Elephant and Cow Manure

Scientists from the University of Vienna have discovered a way of using the manure of cows and elephants in order to sustainably make paper. The low-grade biomass consumed by animals is passed through their digestive tract and produces manure can be up to 40% cellulose. That makes it an excellent source of cellulose for paper and paperboard in countries where trees are scarce, and a cheap and sustainable solution to use up agricultural waste.  

“You need a lot of energy to grind wood down to make nanocellulose,” says Andreas Mautner, researcher of the University of Vienna. But with manure as a starting material, “you can reduce the number of steps you need to perform, simply because the animal already chewed the plant and attacked it with acid and enzymes. You inexpensively produce a nanocellulose that has the same or even better properties than nanocellulose from wood, with lower energy and chemical consumption,” he says.

The researchers are currently working with an industrial consortium to discover applications for this nanopaper. Applications such as a reinforcement for polymer composites, wastewater treatment filters, and writing paper are already being considered.