BANYOLES, Spain — A Spanish paper company has come up with a unique paper made out of donkey dung that has become popular with the masses.
The Sastres Paperers (Paper Sailors) paper company institutionalized the idea during the first coronavirus lockdown in March 2020. The paper is brown with ‘golden’ marks due to the fiber in the donkeys’ diet.
Their paper, which is of very high quality, is being sold in art supply shops. “During the coronavirus lockdown, we explored other materials, in a very open-minded way, looking for innovation,” said Jordi Torrent, the owner of the company.
The company is located in Banyoles, in the eastern Spanish province of Girona, in the Catalonia region. The paper is now sold in shops all over Europe and online after becoming wildly successful.
The 44-year-old businessman said that the company has been making paper for 34 years now. He took over at the helm seven years ago. They are looking to working with natural materials such as cotton or linen, among others, to create a paper for exemplary arts projects.
“There is a special tradition in the area involving the Catalan donkey, which has special characteristics. It is strong, tall, and hardworking. Because of the mechanization of agriculture, its use has dropped dramatically in the last few years, so much so that you could say that it has become an endangered species,” Torrent said.
So he decided that the best way to pay tribute to the Catalan donkey was to use its dung. He wanted to create a high-quality, handmade type of paper to help “develop the local community.”
Donkey fecal matter makes for a very reliable ingredient for making paper. He said that handmade paper uses natural fibers, which are a vital component in the raw diet of donkeys.
“Paper is made using the cellulose we obtain from vegetables, and the donkey, during digestion, does a similar process to making pulp to make paper, so the work we do is similar to its digestion,” said Torrent.
Explaining the paper-making process, Torrent said that the donkey dung is left outside to dry and cleaned by rainwater that acts as a first wash and first treatment of this fiber.
The dung then goes to a mill where it is rewashed to remove any stones or small branches. Following which there is the process of refining the pulp to make paper.
Torrent claims that the process is not smelly, as donkey dung does not smell bad. He also said that handling the excrement is safe, adding that “everyone working the fields is more exposed to bacteria than we are.”
After the pulp is ready, creating the paper is relatively similar to the traditional one. “We make pages using molds, and after that, it is dyed in a natural process, and after a day, it is dried,” Torrent explained.
Despite the mold being 50 by 70 centimeters (19.68 by 27.55 inches), the paper is sold in A4 format since it is cut after the drying process.
The paper is sold in three different shops in Barcelona, in the Catalonia region. It is also sold in France, Belgium, Denmark, and other parts of Europe. People can also find it online through their website.
“Sh*t paper for some sh*tty times, bird! Donkey dung paper” wrote the paper company in an Instagram post.
The paper they make is commonly used by fine arts artists and by advertising designers because “the paper is not just a place to convey a message, it is the message itself,” Torrent said.
Research papers mention that many years ago, in Asian countries such as Sri Lanka, elephant dung was used to make paper. But as elephants are not all that common animal in Spain, the businessman thought that donkeys might provide fibers of similar quality.
(Edited by Ojaswin Kathuria and Vaibhav Vishwanath Pawar.)
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