Clean up Nature with Industrial Biotech!
Bioremediation through industrial biotechnology consists of using the metabolism of microorganisms to remove pollutants. It essentially relies on the use of bacteria and enzymes to clean up contaminated sites and waters.
Between 2004 and 2007, FP6 funded project Biomercury successfully demonstrated how mercury-resistant bacteria with transformed enzymes can purify wastewater, groundwater, soil, air, coasts and rivers, in addition to gold and mercury mines. Besides its eco-friendly credentials, Biomercury has also addressed social needs as a large part of the project focused on disseminating the findings to Africa, Asia, Eastern and Southern Europe, as well as South America. Moreover, the removal of mercury from industrial effluents is prescribed by the EU Industrial Emissions Directive.
The FP7 project BIOTREAT focuses on the bioremediation of drinking water resources that are contaminated by pesticides and pharmaceuticals. To reach the lowest possible concentrations for such micropollutants, the rationale is to strategically place degrading microorganisms or groups of microbes around abstraction sites.
Many other undesirable pollutants can also be removed thanks to industrial biotechnology. Fungi can prove especially useful in treating industrial effluents. This is due to the fact that their fast-growing and adaptive nature has conferred them enzymes with extremely diverse properties. For the paper industry, specific enzymes can respectively substitute chemical paper pulp pre-treatment methods, treat coloured effluents and remove artificial colourings from papers for better recyclability. Textile, leather and paper industries that use dyes, as well as the dye and colours industries themselves, generate coloured effluents which are often discharged directly into waterways. Certain fungal enzymes can efficiently detoxify these effluents. Furthermore, it has been demonstrated that enzymes from white- and brown rot can degrade and remove fatty molecules from oil industry streams.
There is more to IB than removing complex organic molecules from dyes, pulp and paper and oil effluents. Industrial biotechnology can even help wipe up oil spills, as proven by the Kill-Spill project. This FP7 project revolves entirely around biotechnological solutions for the clean-up of oil spills caused by maritime transport, offshore oil exploration and related processes.