I'm learning about how black soldier flies and insects in general are used to turn organic waste into more insects, which are then harvested for protein-heavy feed for poultry and fish.

A lot of places do waste separation at source but in the absence of that (from my knowledge, it isn't very common in the developing world), we need to develop techniques for sorting the waste.

Without sorting, all waste goes into landfill where biodegradable waste will eventually disintegrate but non-degradable won't, ultimately "sorting" the waste (if you were to excavate it).

Since flies consume organic material, I'm wondering if for mixed waste, a large swarm can also "lick the plastic (or other nondegradables) clean".

Has this been tried as a "sorting" strategy anywhere? Do you see any immediate impracticalities or other reasons why this wouldn't be useful?

2 Answers 2


I don't have hard evidence that it doesn't exist at all, but it's certainly not common, and for good economic reasons.

One difficulty is that organic matter in unsorted waste is much more likely to be contaminated than in food waste sorted at source. Some of this contamination could be toxic, either to the insects themselves or to whatever they're fed to. Anaerobic digestion would be more likely to be successful, but the huge amount of inorganic waste combined with the feedstock would take up too much space.

This space issue would be an issue with using insects to strip the organic matter as well.


Well, the food and drink industry has steered plastic companies away from plant-based biodegradable plastic because of the concern for shelf life. So notable companies are developing plant-based recyclable or renewable plastics instead.

But most plastic is not going to get recycled.

So now I would suggest aluminum bottles with twist-caps.

As for insects eating the garbage so that only the plastic remains, well it's a process that's been mentioned.

  • Well, a paper bottle is going to have a plant-based thin plastic film lining it. The thin plastic film will be recyclable but not biodegrading in a natural environment before a couple of years.
    – S Spring
    Commented Jun 10, 2020 at 19:56

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.