“It’s like turning trash into resources.” – Li Hongyi, Shandong Qiaobin chairwoman
50-55 tonnes of kitchen waste is the equivalent in weight to seven adult elephants. This is how much food waste is fed to a billion cockroaches daily at a factory located on the outskirts of Jinan, capital of eastern Shandong province.
The waste arrives before daybreak at the plant run by Shandong Qiaobin Agricultural Technology Co. It is then fed through pipes to cockroaches in their cells. They plan to set up three more such plants next year. They’re aiming to process a third of the kitchen waste produced by Jinan, home to about seven million people.
Reuters tells about what it’s like to go there:
“In the near pitch-dark, you can hear them before you see them – millions of cockroaches scuttling and fluttering across stacks of wooden boards as they devour food scraps by the tonne in a novel form of urban waste disposal. The air is warm and humid – just as cockroaches like it – to ensure the colonies keep their health and voracious appetites.”
Expanding Chinese cities are generating more food waste than they can accommodate in landfills. There are actually several of these cockroach plants around the country.
Not only do these bugs help solve the food waste problem, but they also address the livestock feeding problem by becoming food for animals when they die. They are a good source of protein and nutrients. They sell the bugs to farmers and fisheries as animal feed. But even people eat them.
“Cockroaches are a bio-technological pathway for the converting and processing of kitchen waste,” said Liu Yusheng, president of Shandong Insect Industry Association, yet another factory with a few million bugs. “People think it’s strange that I do this kind of business,” Liu said. “It has great economic value, and my goal is to lead other villagers to prosperity if they follow my lead.”
Not only that, but they also use extracts from the cockroaches to make cures for stomach illness and beauty treatments. They sell them to drug companies as medicinal ingredients.
In Sichuan, a company called Gooddoctor is rearing six billion cockroaches. Wen Jianguo, manager of Gooddoctor’s cockroach facility says:
“The essence of cockroach is good for curing oral and peptic ulcers, skin wounds and even stomach cancer.”
When asked about the chances of the cockroaches escaping, Wen said:
“We have a moat filled with water and fish. If the cockroaches escape, they will fall into the moat and the fish will eat them all.”
Well, that’s good because otherwise, the results would be worthy of a disaster movie!
At Gooddoctor, when cockroaches reach the end of their lifespan of about six months, they are blasted by steam, washed and dried. Then they are sent to a huge nutrient extraction tank. Researchers here are also looking into using cockroach extract in beauty masks, diet pills and even hair-loss treatments.
Globally, we waste approximately one-third (about 1.43 billion tons) of the food produced for human consumption every year. It is very bad for our environment and our economy. Maybe in the future there will be cockroach farms around the world to rectify this. The funny thing is, these household creepy pests are correcting the humans’ wrongdoing… So who’s the real pest really?