Pakistani expert utilizes organic waste using bio conversion technology

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LAHORE: Dr. Saleha Mahmoodis Pakistan’s first and only PhD who brings a very promising organic waste bio conversion technology in the country that utilizes the voracious appetite of maggots to recycle organic waste into protein for animal feed and soil conditioner for plantation.She finished her degree from Government College University Lahore. Dr. Christian Zurbrügg, from the Department Sanitation, Water and Solid Waste for Development (SANDEC)at Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology (EAWAG), Switzerland co-supervised and guided her PhD research work. She also established Pakistan’s first research facility in the field and studied all the segment of BSFL rearing and waste treatment process.

She completed her hands-on intensive operational training from FORWARD site established by SANDEC in Surabaya, Indonesiaand also provided a very useful comparative analysis on the rearing performance of BSFL on municipal organic wastes in both countries.The Urban Unit Lahore, provided the space to establish site and human resources during her research work and she also trained five engineers at the site on this subject. Her work is about using Black Soldier Fly and its Larvae (BSFL) to treat and recycle the organic waste at centralized field and decentralized household levelto successfully retrieve 100% into valuable market products.BSF has been declared as ‘crown jewel’ and ‘ecological engineer’ in literature after almost half a century of the research. This fly is second only to the honey bees in its benefits. Luckily the fly is a ‘non-vector’implying it cannot spread any disease. Similarly, its larvae that is completely safe to handlenot only result in upto 80% waste reduction but can also be used as protein source for animal feed such as in poultry, birds and fish. It is a 12 days process and the technology has an advantage of upscaling the facility by at least 100 times in 60 days. Scientists are considering it green method of protein production that leaves no ecological impact and also helps in reducing burden of global warming. This is just one advantage; others include multi-billion cosmetics and pharmaceuticals’ industry that uses one or another by-product of these larvae.

Her publication, ‘Reducing the Space Footprint of Black Soldier Fly Larvae Waste Treatment by Increasing Waste Feeding Layer Thickness’ (https://doi.org/10.15244/pjoes/122618)  is result of a unique work in which she used the waste thickness of up to 1 meter against generally recommended maximum 20 cm. She showed that space foot print of BSFL technology could significantly be reduced. Similarly, during her study BSFL bins were placed at household level, the purpose was to test a model in which kitchen organic waste could be treated at the source thus reducing huge collection, transport and disposal costs and related carbon foot print. The system would also help to close the loop of organic waste adding to sustainable circular economy. ‘Sustainable Waste Management at Household Level with Black Soldier Fly Larvae (Hermetia illucens)’ ((https://www.mdpi.com/2071-1050/13/17/9722) is another publication based on her work. This study provided a promising option especially for urban and peri urban areas where households can rear their own larvae on organic waste and feed them to poultry, fish or pets.

Based on her work, Pakistan’s second only site handling organic waste and producing protein was established that treated separately collected organic waste from a nearby boarding school with 800 strong students. The produced larvae were fed to poultry. Our settlements are gradually being surrounded by heaps of organic waste and soon a time may come when inhabitants of these settlements may drown in this waste. This option of treating organic waste which comprises at least 50% of the municipal waste produced in cities not only allow retrieving of important source but may also help authorities to save expenditures on collection, transport and disposal of organic waste. -PR