n unassuming building in the city of Jinan, Shandong province is home to more than 300 million cockroaches, which happily consume 15 tons of food waste per day, amounting to about one-quarter of all the food waste collected in the city’s Zhangqiu district.
The owner of this unusual waste management facility says that every day, leftover food from restaurants across the district is brought here to be put to good use. The food is dumped onto a conveyor belt with a waste pulper at the other end. There, the leftovers are smashed into a batter-like mixture, which is fed into another room for millions of ravenous cockroaches to devour. Yum.
As long as they are kept well-fed, cockroaches are expected to live for about 11 months and continually lay eggs during that time. When they die, their bodies can be crushed into a protein-rich powder which is used to feed livestock. Yum again.
According to a video shared by China News, the facility’s owner also plans to develop and market cockroach protein powder as an ingredient for skin care products and medicines, claiming that the roach leftovers have important anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties.
He adds that using cockroaches to dispose of food waste is an environmentally-friendly solution, compared with the soil and water pollution caused by landfills. It’s also a potentially lucrative solution, with every 15 tons of food waste producing one ton of cockroach protein which can then be sold on the market for 12,000 to 15,000 yuan per ton.
Currently, Jinan’s Zhangqiu district is building a new cockroach-powered waste management facility, capable of disposing of 200 tons of leftovers per day. According to our math, that would mean a building with 4 billion cockroaches. In case you think that is out of the range of anything that humans should dare do, earlier this year, a giant indoor farm in Sichuan made headlines for breeding 6 billion roaches a year.
We could certainly see “cockroach protein powder” becoming the next health craze in China. Last year, an elderly couple were stopped at the Guangzhou airport with a container holding 200 live cockroaches that they said they planned to make into a medicinal skin cream.