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 “ In China, entrepreneurs have found a new, productive way to dispose of food scraps: feeding it to cockroaches… more”

The Roach Approach to Food Waste

August 2, 2019 | Annabel Williams

Food waste is one of the main environmental and economic problems facing countries around the world. Even with millions of people starving globally, humans still manage to waste close to a third of the world’s food production each year. That’s roughly 1.3 billion tons of food worth $990 billion dollars. In 2017, it was reported that only 1 percent of China’s food waste was properly processed and the rest was buried in landfills or incinerated, leading to pollution and other environmental concerns. Although food waste is a tremendous, unnecessary exhaustion of financial and environmental resources, it still doesn’t stop the average American from wasting nearly a pound each day.

In China, entrepreneurs have found a new, productive way to dispose of food scraps: feeding it to cockroaches. To most people, the idea of having a farm filled with billions of cockroaches that eat your leftovers may be a little unsettling. In China, however, some people are warming up to the idea as more and more cockroach breeding facilities are opening across the country. One major use of these cockroaches is for medicinal purposes, for both pharmaceutical and traditional preparations. For example, a woman in Xichang breeds them, dries and crushes them to make an effective “healing potion.” Other farms produce cockroaches for livestock feed, mainly pigs, an idea started by Li Yanrong. The first cockroach-food processing facility, Shandong Qiaobin Agriculture Technology Ltd., was opened in Jinan, East China by Li Yanrong in 2012. Since then, the few kilograms of cockroaches Li initially started with has grown into 300 tons. Li’s warehouse receives a delivery of food waste gathered from restaurants around Jinan each morning. The plastic and glass are sorted out of the food before it gets churned into mush that is fed to the cockroaches. Each day, they consume 60 tons of food waste. In the future, Li aims to have 4,000 tons of roaches able to devour 200 tons of kitchen food waste each day, just from one city and surrounding regions. With Shandong Qiaobin opening 3 more facilities this year and other people opening their own facilities like Li’s all over the country, China is providing a great example of replicating and scaling innovative solution for sustainability. Can the rest of the world get behind roach farms? If so, the future of food waste management could be in the hands, or rather stomachs of cockroaches.

Food waste is one of the main environmental and economic problems facing countries around the world. Even with millions of people starving globally, humans still manage to waste close to a third of the world’s food production each year. That’s roughly 1.3 billion tons of food worth $990 billion dollars. In 2017, it was reported that only 1 percent of China’s food waste was properly processed and the rest was buried in landfills or incinerated, leading to pollution and other environmental concerns. Although food waste is a tremendous, unnecessary exhaustion of financial and environmental resources, it still doesn’t stop the average American from wasting nearly a pound each day.

In China, entrepreneurs have found a new, productive way to dispose of food scraps: feeding it to cockroaches. To most people, the idea of having a farm filled with billions of cockroaches that eat your leftovers may be a little unsettling. In China, however, some people are warming up to the idea as more and more cockroach breeding facilities are opening across the country. One major use of these cockroaches is for medicinal purposes, for both pharmaceutical and traditional preparations. For example, a woman in Xichang breeds them, dries and crushes them to make an effective “healing potion.” Other farms produce cockroaches for livestock feed, mainly pigs, an idea started by Li Yanrong. The first cockroach-food processing facility, Shandong Qiaobin Agriculture Technology Ltd., was opened in Jinan, East China by Li Yanrong in 2012. Since then, the few kilograms of cockroaches Li initially started with has grown into 300 tons. Li’s warehouse receives a delivery of food waste gathered from restaurants around Jinan each morning. The plastic and glass are sorted out of the food before it gets churned into mush that is fed to the cockroaches. Each day, they consume 60 tons of food waste. In the future, Li aims to have 4,000 tons of roaches able to devour 200 tons of kitchen food waste each day, just from one city and surrounding regions. With Shandong Qiaobin opening 3 more facilities this year and other people opening their own facilities like Li’s all over the country, China is providing a great example of replicating and scaling innovative solution for sustainability. Can the rest of the world get behind roach farms? If so, the future of food waste management could be in the hands, or rather stomachs of cockroaches.

Tags: Earth Optimism, Eco-Teen Action Network, Global Goals, Intergenerational, Sustainable Development Goals, Teens, Youth