Friday, 30 April 2010

Pooh paper patent

It has been quite a serious time on the project for the past couple of weeks. I am still ploughing through the company's financial records and I have managed to draft my colleague Matt in to catalogue the patents that I mentioned last week. Financial and legal records can be quite dry and formulaic so I had no expectation of being able to report any quirky and interesting finds amongst these records, until Matt came across a very interesting patent a few days ago. Most of the patents we have come across so far have been fairly standard and representative of inventions you expect to be associated with a glass firm, such as 'Improvements in the the manufacture of pipes or tubes of glass', 'Improvements relating to optical glass' and the obvious (if unhelpful) 'Improvements in the manufacture of glass'.

Yet Matt stumbled on a patent specification of Henrik Zander dated 1839 for 'Improvements in the manufacture of paper'. Already, the patent appeared to be unusual. It then becomes apparent that the patent is for the manufacture of paper..........from horse manure. It appears to be quite a time consuming process as the dung needs to be cleaned repetitively with cold water, boiled and then mixed with straw, caustic soda and linen to produce the necessary pulp. It is unclear why Chances took such an interest in this invention. It could be argued that they were one of the earliest green companies, interested in recycling (though this is highly unlikely). There are many producers of elephant dung paper on the internet today including http://www.elephantdungpaper.com/ and http://www.ecomaximus.co.uk/. These producers all highlight the following benefits of producing paper from elephant dung:
1) Elephant dung is a renewable resource, unlike wood pulp.
2) It is a free waste product, therefore, good for business.
3) It is often produced in countries where elephants are deemed an agricultural pest, such as Thailand and Sri Lanka, enabling locals to see the animals as assets and not liabilities.
Whether Chances were aware of the eco-friendly benefits of using dung for paper or not, it does retrospectively appear to be a very good idea. And whilst Henrick Zander admits in his specification that he is not the first to produce paper from 'vegetable matter' (this invention can probably be assigned to the Egyptians), he does believe that he is the first to use horse dung in the production of paper. In years to come, when it is possible that we may all be taking notes in our dung paper notebooks, we can look back and be grateful to Henrick Zander: (possibly) the first inventor of horse dung paper.


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