The Chinese produce some 60 million tonnes of kitchen waste a year. Some of it is burnt, some is composted, but most ends up in landfills where it threatens to morph into toxic sludge as it mixes with other types of garbage.
Chinese farmers have been experimenting with another solution for the kitchen overflow – using the waste as feed for cockroaches.
Jinan in Shandong province is the epicentre of this new industry, which later grinds the cockroaches up into powder for use in medicine, cosmetics and animal feed. The number of cockroach farmers in Shandong has tripled to 400 in the past three years, says Liu Yusheng, an entomology professor at Shandong Agricultural University.
One of the local businessmen in the trade is Li Yanrong, who feeds 15 tonnes of kitchen waste to 300 million cockroaches each day, according to the Qilu Evening News. The waste is delivered from local restaurants and converted into slurry, before being delivered to the ravenous insects on conveyor belts. “Landfill produces air and water pollution. This method makes zero pollution,” Li says.
In 2014 the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation concluded that insect meal had “huge potential”. In some cases the FAO thought insects comprise 100% of an animal’s diet and farmers in Europe are also raising meal worms to grind up and give to cattle. Insects like these are generally cheap and easy to bulk up in size because more of what they eat gets converted in body mass (unlike warm-blooded animals, they don’t expend energy on keeping themselves warm).
Li estimates that for every 15 tonnes of kitchen waste that he buys he can farm at least a tonne of cockroaches. He then dries and pulverises the insects and sells them for up to Rmb15,000 a tonne.
(For more on China’s cockroach breeding industry see WiC406).
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