A large number of biodegradable byproducts including alcohols, soluble saccharides, volatile organic acids, and amines accumulate in the liquid fraction (leachate) produced as vegetal and food scrap waste decomposes. Untreated leachate, because it is rich in nutrients and organic byproducts, has a high chemical oxygen demand and is normally cleared of soluble organic byproducts by mineralization before its discharge into waterways. Mineralizing leachates using chemical and microbial biotechnologies is, however, a lengthy and costly process. We report here that the larvae of the black soldier fly Hermetia illucens (L.) (Diptera: Stratiomyidae), an insect rich in protein and lipids, and having significant commercial value, while feeding and growing off of compost leachate, lowers its chemical oxygen demand relative to that of leachate unexposed to larvae, neutralizes its acidity, and clears it of volatile organic acids, amines, and alcohols. These observations demonstrate that black soldier fly larvae could be used to help offset the cost and clean up of organic solutes in leachate waste streams while recycling carbon, nitrogen, and phosphate into usable and commercially valuable biomass.
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Vol. 105 • No. 2