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Bacteria Superheroes Offer A Green Future

Posted on October 9, 2016 by Matt Tomasino There have been 0 comments

The Eco-friendly innovations that are continuously being developed offer much needed hope on a horizon that may seem bleak to some. It is the behind the scenes progress that the general public is unaware of which should be shouted from the rooftops for its stellar effort and enormous success.

From Elon Musk and his pioneering battery technology to municipal recycling grid changes, there is real green momentum going on. Now, the use of bacteria in combating unnecessary waste may be the unsung superheroes of your green future.

Anaerobic Digestion

Using specific bacteria to ingest volatile material may sound sci-fi to some but for many applications it is a unique way to go green.  In fact, it has been done for centuries in the form of aerobic (oxygenated) composting. Now, another age-old process called, anaerobic digestion which works in an atmosphere void of oxygen, is being used on a grand scale to break down various material that can be reused or turned into power.

According to the American Biogas Council, anaerobic digestion is a process capable of

“converting livestock manure, municipal wastewater solids, food waste, high strength industrial wastewater and residuals, fats, oils and grease (FOG), and various other organic waste streams into biogas.”

A Four Step Method

Using a variety of bacterias to do specific jobs requires a four step method that can then be used for cleaning wastewater or capturing biogas to then ignite and use for power.

  • Hydrolysis - Facultative bacteria is used to breakdown insoluble organic polymers such as carbohydrates into sugars, proteins into amino acids and lipids into long chain fatty acids.
  • Fermentation - Acidogenic bacteria begins to ferment these amino acids, sugars and fats into carbon dioxide, hydrogen, ammonia, and organic acids.
  • Conversion - Acetogenic bacteria is then used to convert and metabolize these fermentations into acetic acid, ammonia, hydrogen and carbon dioxide.
  • Removal - Finally, after these three processes, methanogenic bacteria removes hydrogen to convert the formula into usable methane and carbon dioxide.

Wastewater Cleansing

New bacteria applications are being used to clean wastewater. Using these methods may be the future of reducing the high energy currently being used in traditional approaches to treating wastewater.

According to New Scientist,

“...conventional treatment plants guzzle energy – typically consuming 1.5 kilowatt-hours for every kilogram of pollutants removed. In the US, this amounts to a whopping 3 per cent of the total energy demand. If the plants could be self-powered, recycling our own waste water could become as commonplace as putting a solar panel on a roof.”

The self-powered model is now a reality. A Boston-based company called Cambrian Innovation has found a way to convert 2250 litres of sewage into enough clean water for at least 15 people in one day. They call their process BioViolt which not only cleans wastewater but also generates biogas which is turned into electricity that essentially powers itself.

Overall Benefits

The amazing benefits of microbial digestion include:

  • Creating renewable biogas which has the potential to replace fossil fuel applications
  • Organic waste diverted from landfills reducing greenhouse gas emissions
  • Biogas can utilized 24/7, 365 days per year requiring fewer backup plants
  • Microbial digestion produces high quality compost that can be used for erosion control, water absorption, soil nutrient infusion, and reduction of petroleum-based fertilizer use.
  • Waste generators and distributed-scale facilities can be built near one another to eliminate energy wasted on transportation as well as transmission lines


These bacteria applications are taking an age-old process and turning into the potential for a new horizon in green mainstream energy. Sometimes all it takes is using the smallest of organisms to do all the heavy lifting.

This post was posted in Defining Green and was tagged with Anaerobic Digestion, bacteria, biogas, CONSERVES WATER, methane, wastewater treatment


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Green Home is the original online ecostore, based in San Francisco, California, in the heart of both the environmental and cleantech industries. Since 1999 Greenhome.com has played its part as one of the most comprehensive online resources for greening your home and greening your business. Our company is on a mission to green the world, one person (and one business) at a time. While all of our products are eco-friendly, we are especially passionate about compostable plates, cups, bowls, cutlery & utensils, take out containers and bags.  If more businesses and individuals switched from disposable to compostable we could make a real impact on the world!

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