Thursday, August 16, 2007

It's All About Recycling: If I Could Do This I'd Be A Billionaire!

The next time you ask what type of present someone got you for your birthday and they say "a bunch of crap," you better believe them! Because nothing says "I love you" like a photo frame made from panda poop. The Chengdu Giant Panda Breeding Base has come up with a dung-for-profit scheme that turns droppings from the endangered species into odor-free souvenirs ranging from bookmarks to Olympic-themed statues of the animals.

The facility in the southwestern province of Sichuan houses about 40 bamboo-fed pandas who produce less than a ton of excrement a day. "We used to spend at least $770 a month to get rid of the crap but now it can be lucrative," says Jing Shimin. The products will be made at a local handicraft company mostly from undigested bamboo culled from the panda waste through a special process. So just what is this special process that makes the dung...well, delectable? An official at the Chengdu facility said the dung is "carefully selected (now there's a good job), smashed, dried and sterilized at 572 degrees Fahrenheit. How'd they figure out that temperature? "They don't smell too bad because 70 percent of the dung is just remains of the bamboo that the pandas are unable to digest," Jing said.

While no price has been set, he said the most expensive souvenirs will contain a panda hair - collected from the wild - in each package. Hmmm. Now here's where the "crap" gets unique. The 2008 Olympic statues will feature "athletic pandas performing various Olympic sports. They are also looking into making high-quality paper from the fiber-rich panda excrement, inspired by a trip to Thailand, where they found paper made from elephant dung. The Chiang Mai Zoo in northern Thailand already sells multicolored paper made from waste produced by its two resident pandas. Making paper there involves a daylong process of cleaning the feces, boiling it in a soda solution, bleaching it with chlorine and drying it under the sun.
I wonder if you can just get a pile to use as a paperweight? The possibilities are, well, endless!