Warning: This story could make your skin crawl. As China’s cities continue to grow at a rapid pace, problems are arising with the country’s food waste. The Chinese population is producing so much food waste that the landfills can’t keep up, and this has led to some out-of-the-box thinking — using a billion cockroaches to take care of the problem.

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According to a new Reuters report, a plant outside of the city of Jinan — the capital of the eastern Shandong province — is disposing of the 50 tons of kitchen waste it receives every day by feeding the food scraps to the cockroaches. This process is not just a creative solution for food waste, but it is also providing livestock with nutritious food once the cockroaches die.

Related: 5 simple ways to reduce your food waste right now

“It’s like turning trash into resources,” said Shandong Qiaobin chairwoman Li Hongyi.

Shandong Qiaobin Agricultural Technology runs the Jinan plant, and the company hopes to open three more plants next year, with the goal of eliminating one-third of the city’s food waste. Jinan currently has a population of around 7 million.

This novel approach to urban waste starts with the waste arriving at the plant before daybreak, and then workers feed it through pipes to cockroaches in their cells.

China banned the use of food waste as pig feed because of outbreaks of African swine fever. Now, this new process is encouraging the cockroach industry to grow. Shandong Qiaobin is beginning to serve as an example for others throughout China, with many people opening their own cockroach farms.

Humans waste about one-third of the food produced across the globe each year — around 1.3 billion tons — and this is negatively impacting the environment as well as the economy. If the cockroach trend takes off outside of China’s borders, it could mean that these little pests will be soldiers on the frontline of the global war against food waste.

Via Reuters

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