Bioremediation: Methods of Recycling and Waste Management

Biodegradation is nature's way of recycling wastes, or breaking down organic matter into nutrients that can be used by other organisms. "Degradation" means decay, and the "bio-" prefix means that the decay is carried out by a huge assortment of bacteria, fungi, insects, worms, and other organisms that eat dead material and recycle it into new forms. In nature, there is no waste because everything gets recycled. The waste products from one organism become the food for others, providing nutrients and energy while breaking down the waste organic matter. Some organic materials will break down much faster than others, but all will eventually decay. By harnessing these natural forces of biodegradation, people can reduce wastes and clean up some types of environmental contaminants. Through composting, we accelerate natural biodegradation and convert organic wastes to a valuable resource. Wastewater treatment also accelerates natural forces of biodegradation. In this case the purpose is to break down organic matter so that it will not cause pollution problems when the water is released into the environment. Through bioremediation, microorganisms are used to clean up oil spills and other types of organic pollution. Composting and bioremediation provide many possibilities for student research. Remediate" means to solve a problem, and "bio-remediate" means to use biological organisms to solve an environmental problem such as contaminated soil or groundwater. In a non-polluted environment, bacteria, fungi, protists, and other microorganisms are constantly at work breaking down organic matter, some of the microorganisms would die, while others capable of eating the organic pollution would survive. Bioremediation works by providing these pollution-eating organisms with fertilizer, oxygen, and other conditions that encourage their rapid growth. These organisms would then be able to break down the organic pollutant at a correspondingly faster rate. In fact, bioremediation is often used to help clean up oil spills. Nonetheless, bioremediation provides a technique for cleaning up pollution by enhancing the same biodegradation processes that occur in nature. Depending on the site and its contaminants, bioremediation may be safer and less expensive than alternative solutions such as incineration or landfilling of the contaminated materials. It also has the advantage of treating the contamination in place so that large quantities of soil, sediment or water do not have to be dug up or pumped out of the ground for treatment.
  • Bacterial bioremediation
  • Microbiologically influenced corrosion
  • Biofilms and biofouling
  • Biotransformation and biodegradation of hazardous compounds
  • Biodeterioration and biodegradation of wood and polymeric materials
  • Recycling of nutrients, waste and pollution
  • Biodegradation and bioremediation of persistent pollutants
  • Biodiversity of organisms involved in biodeterioration
  • Bioremediation in environmental protection

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