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Sweden ‘discovery’ for larvae to manage waste is old hat in PH

July 08, 2019 - Monday 12:07 PM by Jimmy Laking

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Sweden is currently agog about one recent discovery: that larvae and maggots can process food waste disposal into compost.

In fact, this Scandinavian country is so excited about the finding it has already made claims about “pioneering the world’s most disgusting method of processing waste disposal” through larvae and maggots.

Here’s how an article picked up by the Philippine News Agency puts it: Turning food waste into animal feed using maggots provides a series of advantages compared to other methods of food waste disposal, according to a research project by the Agricultural University in Uppsala (SLU).

The project has recently received funding to go ahead and build a pilot plant in the Swedish city of Eskilstuna, where millions of hungry maggots will eat at least one metric ton of food waste per day.

“It's like swatting two flies in one go, if you're going to get witty. We are about to replace eco-unfriendly feed and as a bonus make a profit on waste management," Björn Vinnerås, an associate professor of recycling technology at SLU, told Swedish Radio.

From SLU's own test facility in Uppsala, where maggots consume one kilogram of food waste per day, the project will be now be scaled up to a pilot plant, where at least one ton per day will be consumed.

"To go through a ton, we will need about a half a million larvae each day," Björn Vinnerås remarked.

SLU maintains that this kind of large-scale "maggot composting" will become an interesting option both for municipalities and industries. According to Björn Vinnerås, it is technically much easier than building a biogas plant. Another angle to consider is the rising demand for protein, which in this case may be extracted and used in animal feed.”

Unfortunately for Sweden, its bragging right is misplaced. The discovery in fact is old hat in the Philippines and as matters stand, the ‘disgusting technology’ has long been adopted by some communities and by some establishments in Northern Luzon. It has for years been practiced by the mining municipality of Mankayan, Benguet in processing its solid waste, earning for it a commendation from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in the process.

Local officials said this indigenous system of processing solid wastes is low-cost but highly-effective, saving hard-earned taxpayers money in the process for other services.

The system is referred to by its discoverer, Fred Fangonon, as the Crib technology, so-called because it involved the putting up of rows of crib-like formation of bamboo slats where the town’s biodegradable wastes are deposited.

Fangonon said the system required only “a few thousand pesos to put up and to maintain.” In contrast, an Engineered Sanitary Landfill costs an average of P50 million upwards, according to the DENR.

Laboratory analysis conducted by the Baguio City-based Saint Louis University showed the high-grade compost produced by the crib showed no lead or toxic residues.

Fangonon, a former OFW who introduced the system, said this down-to-earth composting technology can process all biodegradables, from market wastes to baby diapers and turn them into high-grace compost.

The system requires no shredding, enzymes or turning over.

“And since it can compost big volume, it can help mitigate climate change because it produces no methane or leachate or foul smell,” he said.

He said the system relies chiefly on indigenous organisms (to include flies, maggots and earthworms) that work harmoniously in breaking down the wastes and turning them into compost.

Nature has provided macro and micro organisms for the composting process. When these organisms finish their task, the compost is clean and ready for growing plants,” Fangonon said.

Fangonon said the system is appropriate to mountainous terrains or high-risk areas deprived of wide open spaces.

He said it could also fit exactly in island settings like Boracay or the Island Garden City of Samal (Igacos).

More important still, it is low-cost, highly-effective and adaptable to Third World conditions such as what exist in this country.