Roo poo replaces commercial paper production

Friday 23 Aug 2019

For 75 years the northwest Tasmanian town of Burnie was synonymous with paper. At its peak, the town’s Associated Pulp and Paper Mills employed about 3500 people, exporting Reflex paper made from eucalypt pulp around the globe. But now Darren Simpson is the only paper-maker left in Burnie. While the industrial factory closed almost a decade ago, the tradition continues with Creative Paper Tasmania.

The company sells handmade reams manufactured using ancient techniques, from recycled cotton — that would otherwise go to landfill — as well as waste hemp products, and even using other sustainable materials including wombat and roo poo, preloved denim and apple pulp from a local juice company.

Darren says the paper has helped change the fortunes of the town. “In the ’80s and ’90s the demise of the commercial production started and the town hit some tough times, industries left and employment was high,” Darren says.

“So the town saw an opportunity in tourism. The beaches were cleaned, a boardwalk was made and this program began.” In the last years of its life, in the late ’90s, the mill (at that stage with a new owner) helped support a community-run organisation aimed at getting unemployed people job-ready through making handmade paper.

Now working with a group of volunteers and two part-time staff, he oversees the paper manufacturing, as well as offering eight 30-minute tours to visitors each day, or up to 10,000 tourists a year. The team makes, on average, 400 reams of A5 sheets a day or about 200 A4 sheets, as well as a variety of other products. These are sold in the shop, online and in retail shops in Melbourne, Canberra and Hobart.

Their biggest buyers are artists seeking paper for watercolour painting, as well as brides and grooms, and tourists keen to take home a slice of paper made from bulldust (or cow poo). “Every couple of months I’ll go out into the bush and collect garbage bags of roo and wombat poo or go to a farm and collect cow poo,” Darren says. “I’ve become quite the poo-ologist, knowing what is the correct dung. It has to be an animal that doesn’t eat meat”.

Tourists who take part in tours can even dabble in the process themselves. “It’s a simple technique, pretty much the same as they used in ancient China or Egypt, separating plant fibres to create a thin layer of material,” Darren says.

Source: Weekly Times

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