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EDUCATION

Bugs Can Save the Planet

United States of America | 2024 Samsung Solve for Tomorrow

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Have you ever stopped to think about what happens to the food you throw away? The challenge of food waste is immense and multifaceted, with food waste in the US estimated to be 30-40 percent of the food supply. [1] Food is one of the largest categories of material placed in municipal landfills, where it emits methane, a potent greenhouse gas.

But that’s not all. The scarcity of sustainable animal feed puts further pressure on our natural resources. So, tackling food waste isn’t just about reducing what’s thrown away; it’s about protecting our planet and preserving valuable resources.

Student introducing their idea

Turning Trash into Treasure

The team from Princeton High School have devised an innovative idea utilizing black soldier fly larvae. These larvae can convert a wide range of organic waste, including meat, manure, and spoiled grains, into high-quality feed for livestock and even products safe for human consumption. This method not only mitigates the overproduction of greenhouse gases but also enhances access to nutritious animal feed and consumer products.

The students faced challenges, such as the odor produced by the larvae and maintaining their productivity during winter. By employing a comprehensive STEM approach, they designed bioreactors to balance inputs and outputs, ensuring optimal conditions year-round. Automation of daily maintenance was a key focus, making the system user-friendly and promoting wider adoption. Their prototypes aim to demonstrate the feasibility and benefits of this composting method, encouraging community acceptance and participation.

Reflecting on the project, their teacher Mark Eastburn said, “The most beautiful part of Samsung Solve for Tomorrow was that I could take students who have all sorts of strengths and bring them together on one common goal. This is the world that they’re going to inherit, and they need to be aware of the challenges we’re facing so that when those times come, they’re capable of actually dealing with these issues.”

Students introducing their idea with a doll

Paving the Way to a Sustainable Tomorrow

These dedicated students dream of a world where food waste is no longer a burden but a treasure trove of possibilities. They envision a future where every scrap of organic material is transformed into something valuable, reducing the environmental impact and providing sustainable alternatives for animal feed.

Their commitment goes beyond mere ideas. By harnessing the power of black soldier fly larvae, they hope to inspire others to see waste not as a problem, but as an opportunity for innovation and sustainability. Join us in supporting their vision to create a sustainable future.

[Reference]

[1] USDA, Why should we care about food waste?

Students presenting their ideas to the panel
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