South Korea’s government embraces insects to feed on mountain of food waste
Aside from consuming food waste, the insect’s larva can be used for animal feed and producing excrement that can be used as fertiliser
By Ko Dong-hwan
The South Korean government has embraced a rare yet effective, eco-friendly method of disposing of food waste, vowing to expand infrastructure for “ptecticus tenebrifer,” a flying insect that feeds on waste when in a larva state.
The Rural Development Administration set up new policies to introduce technological and legal bases for breeding the insects’ larvae, the arm of the Ministry of Environment.
So far the policies’ absence has limited the government from using the insects to tackle food waste on a major scale. Larvae have been limited to food waste weighing 100 kilograms or less per day because of a shortage of disposal facilities.
The administration had not even prepared standard codes for storing food waste and establishing/controlling breeding compounds for the larvae.
The administration began addressing the problem in October 2017, when it revised policies to introduce exemplary standards for breeding and inspecting larvae for food waste disposal.
Breeding facilities for ptecticus tenebrifer were subsequently listed as a new type of waste management facility, opening ways to deploy millions of insects to tackle the huge amount of food waste.
Ptecticus tenebrifer larvae not only nibble on the mounting obnoxious wastes in the country; each larva also produces excrement that can be recycled as agricultural fertiliser. The excrement is produced every two to three grammes of food waste.
Administration researcher Park Kwan-ho from Industrial Insect Division inside the Department of Agricultural Biology said ptecticus tenebrifer’s liking for food waste would boost the insect industry, which in turn would expand the job market for start-ups and job seekers.
The larva, full of protein, can also be used as animal feed. One hundred tonnes of consumed food waste equals 10 tonnes of animal feed.
In a CIEF factory in Gimjae, there are 2 billion of the insects – larvae or grown-up – in what the company claims is the world’s largest indoor compound.
“In 2011, the South Korean government selected a domestic technology that mass-breeds the insect indoors – one of the nation’s top 100 finest scientific technologies,” said CEO Lee Jong-pil, according to Chosun Biz.
A spokesman for another company in Gimjae that breeds ptecticus tenebrifer said that with the improved policies, the company expected record sales of 15 million won (US$14,132) this year. This was because it would now be able to “manage large amounts of food waste and breed the larvae for animal feeds as well.”
The administration said food waste from 51 million people annually cost the central government 800 billion won to manage and contributed to an annual financial burden of 20 trillion won (19 billion).