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Novel way to tackle waste shows there's big bucks in bugs

By ZHAO RUIXUE | China Daily | Updated: 2017-08-31 09:02

For many people, cockroaches are despised pests that trigger feelings of disgust-but for Li Yanrong, the insects are a source of income.

On a 1,800-square-meter plot 2 kilometers from Shawan village in Jinan, Shandong province, the 50-year-old businessman has built a facility to research ways of harnessing cockroaches.

"We spent six years doing research into using cockroaches after finding that they can feed on kitchen waste and create no pollutants," said Li, general manager of Qiaobin Agricultural Technology. Cockroaches are not just pests, but can be beneficial to society, Li added.

At a workshop in the plant, where simple equipment is used to process kitchen waste, the air smells foul. Every day, kitchen waste, which comes from the environmental sanitation agency, is broken down and piped into a concrete building filled with millions of cockroaches.

Li has 300 metric tons of American cockroaches that can eat 15 tons of kitchen waste a day, about 25 percent of the amount produced in the city's Zhangqiu district.

And he is planning to expand. He has signed a contract with a Beijing company that will invest in a new plant. "We will equip the new facility with high-quality equipment to ensure no odor is discharged," Li said.

When the new facility is completed this year, the company will be able to process 60 tons of kitchen waste a day.

If the company can handle 100 tons a day, it will earn 7.59 million yuan ($1.14 million) a year, Li said. In addition, the company can earn 36.5 million yuan a year from selling protein feed produced from the eggs of cockroaches.

"A cockroach begins laying eggs when it is 4 months old. It lays one egg each week, and can lay eggs for eight months," Li said.

"Using insects to solve big problems is being done around the world. The most successful case is Australia's use of dung beetles to deal with cow dung, which prompted us to think of using cockroaches to deal with kitchen waste," he added.

"We are the first in the world to do so and we have applied for patents for the project."

Li's research team consists of five people all with master's degrees. Before their work with cockroaches, they focused on developing medical equipment.

"Using cockroaches to deal with kitchen waste is good for our country and for business," Li said. "Social problems created by kitchen waste will be eradicated."

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