Image copyright AFP Image caption Considers the plastic material as a more ‘symbolic’ alternative to poo
A traditional Ryukyu [river] river town in Japan hopes to harvest beetles to use as bags for waste instead of plastic.
In a novelty business first by a Japanese firm, Japanese beetles replace the classic black biodegradable plastic used by the Nara municipality to collect rainwater.
Nara’s river River is one of the country’s main rafting rafting rivers.
Organisers say the insect-based plastic bags would help conserve precious waterways.
Its town hall says it had launched the project to protect the environment and provide an alternative to waste water management, which has included using plastic bags to collect organic waste.
Yashida, the company that engineered the new material, realised that it was possible to grow beetle larvae inside tubes and then nurture them inside bags.
It used a bevy of beetles on floating platforms on the river, some of which moved on to the nearby farms where they lay eggs. The eggs are then laid in a bag to prevent the larvae from escaping.
A market for organic products is growing worldwide.
Over the last two years, more than 100 countries have taken action to try to reduce or even phase out plastic waste from their landfills.
Most of the plastics that end up in waste at sea do not biodegrade after they are removed from landfill sites.
That means that many of the estimated two million tons of plastic that enter oceans each year could end up in the food chain, experts say.
The problem is especially evident in the oceans, where fish and humans have caught the plastic debris.
Many of the floating plastic bags also end up on beaches and shorelines, taking up space in recycling facilities.
Image copyright Justin Foulkes Image caption The annual use of plastic bags in Japan is approximately 15 million per year
Mr Sono, the town’s agriculture and forestry official, said the move to grow beetle larvae inside bags could be used for “remediation” of riverbeds.
“Plastic bags are very toxic, and pollute waterways,” Mr Sono told AFP news agency.
“I hope that this method can be promoted overseas as it’s a more symbolic alternative.”
His town was only the second Japanese municipality to explore the new collection process, after a similar idea was tested in 2013 at a nearby mountain town.
Yashida has been providing the materials to construct the bags and harvesting the larvae.
Each year, about 15 million plastic bags are used in Japan.
Local experts say Yashida’s new bags could contribute to cutting down on the amount of plastic waste.
The company has so far produced about two million bags, and says it has plans to produce eight million each year.
It also plans to create a network of tainting farms to grow the larvae inside bags.
Japan’s beetle population, however, is not all that abundant, say local experts.
Researchers believe the beetles that produce the most larvae are those that are exposed to specific pesticides.
“This is a new material,” said Lide Noki, an expert at Mitsubishi University, who participated in the research.
“The issue is whether they will take off or not.”
Image copyright AFP Image caption Japan’s beetle population is not all that abundant
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