Roaches employed in China to take care of food waste

Over more than 300 million years of existence, cockroaches have been through just about everything. In China’s ever-growing cities, cockroaches are now teaming up with people to take care of food waste. With populations in urban centers soaring, landfills can’t keep up with the sheer volume of food scraps that people throw out. Roaches, however, are more than capable of cleaning up.

In Jinan, capital of Shandong province and home to about 7 million people, Shandong Qiaobin Agricultural Technology Co. employs a billion cockroaches who consume 50 tonnes of food waste per day. The roaches are kept in cells, and the food is sent in to them through pipes. Shandong Xiaobin plans to open three more facilities, handling up to a third of Jinan’s food waste.

“Cockroaches are a biotechnological pathway for the converting and processing of kitchen waste,” Liu Yusheng, president of Shandong Insect Industry Association, told Reuters.

Across China, others are also getting into cockroach farming. Li Bingcai, a resident of Sichuan province, owns 3.4 million roaches and hopes to expand to 20 farms. He sells the roaches as feed for pigs and fish. Pigs used to eat food waste, but the practice is illegal in China after a rash of African swine fever swept the country.

“People think it’s strange that I do this kind of business,” Li said. “It has great economic value, and my goal is to lead other villagers to prosperity if they follow my lead.”

Also in Sichuan, Gooddoctor is taking an even bigger slice of the pie, with 6 billion cockroaches on its farm. The roaches have a lifespan of about six months. When they, their nutrients are extracted and used in medicines, diet pills, and beauty products.

“The essence of cockroach is good for curing oral and peptic ulcers, skin wounds and even stomach cancer,” said Wen Jianguo, manager of Gooddoctor’s cockroach facility.

With food waste a worldwide problem, the famously resilient cockroach may have found yet another way to stick around for the long haul.