The highlight was, of course, the use of waste as raw material. There were papers made from varied substances such as banana tissue, cotton waste, waste paper, and dung from animals like horses, elephants and rhinoceros. The pavilion was also a showcase of the grit and tenacity of the committed entrepreneurs who are lending a helping hand towards sustainable conservation.
Take the example of Elrhino Eco Industries from Assam. In between enthralling us with stories of Assam, elephants and rhinoceros, Nisha Bora and her father explained how the firm, after several trial and error, developed a paper made up of 60% other waste 40% dung, of what else, elephants and rhinos, two of the most endangered wild animals in Asia.
Another interesting variety was the seed paper, where live seeds are impregnated in the paper. The paper can be crushed and mixed with soil, leaving nature to do its magic. Specific to seeded paper, the conversation ranged from the difficulty in getting Indian seeds approved by the custom and health authorities of European nations when seeded paper products are exported to how the industry found a way out by getting their customer abroad to send them the approved seeds from their country so that the plants grow as imagined. Products made from seed paper, including coasters, notebooks covers and paper bags were on display.
Other interesting products made from handmade papers included fashion and home accessories. These included table lamp shades, key chains, earrings and accessories, photo frames, coffee filters and blotting paper pads.
Based on the quotes from Dutta & Co, a registered khadi and village industries company from Kolkata, and Poopers, a company that makes paper from dung, prices of handmade paper start from Rs 100 per kg for basic paper cut in sheets of 22x30-inches.
With growing awareness about conservation, ecology, climate change and sustainability, paper and paper products from handmade paper are on the cusp of significant upside in demand. What is needed is closer collaboration between the printer and the paper maker. For example, Sundeep Murada of Naraina-based The Prism agreed to test handmade papers on offset printing machines to determine their suitability. Such collaborative ventures will indeed help fine-tune the process of printing; this once done will lead to a surge in demand for handmade paper.