Aerobic and Anaerobic Biodegradation
© ENSO Bottles, LLC
ENSO Bottles, LLC
PO Box 15886
Phoenix, AZ 85060
This document provides an in
depth explanation, detailing the processes of aerobic and
anaerobic biodegradation. It is intended for general audiences and will provide the reader with
the necessary information to understand what is happening during the biodegradation process.
For those interested in the biochemical processes of the microbial organisms this document will
provide a high level explanation of the aerobic and anaerobic processes.
Biodegradation is the process by which organic substances are broken down into smaller
compounds by the enzymes produced by living microbial organisms. The microbial organisms
transform the substance through metabolic or enzymatic processes. Biodegradation processes
vary greatly, but frequently the final product of the degradation is carbon dioxide or methane.
Organic material can be degraded
, with oxygen, or
, without oxygen.
Biodegradable matter is generally organic material such as plant and animal matter and other
substances originating from living organisms, or artificial materials that are similar enough to
plant and animal matter to be put to use by microorganisms. Some microorganisms have the
astonishing, naturally occurring, microbial catabolic diversity to degrade, transform or
accumulate a huge range of compounds including hydrocarbons (e.g. oil), polychlorinated
biphenyls (PCBs), polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), pharmaceutical substances,
is the breakdown of organic contaminants by microorganisms when
oxygen is present. More specifically, it refers to occurring or living only in the presence of
oxygen; therefore, the chemistry of the system, environment, or organism is characterized by
oxidative conditions. Many organic contaminants are rapidly degraded under aerobic
conditions by aerobic bacteria called aerobes.
Aerobic bacteria (aerobe) have an oxygen based metabolism. Aerobes, in a process known as
cellular respiration, use oxygen to oxidize substrates (for example sugars and fats) in order to
Before cellular respiration begins, glucose molecules are broken down into two smaller
molecules. This happens in the cytoplasm of the aerobes. The smaller molecules then enter a
mitochondrion, where aerobic respiration takes place. Oxygen is used in the chemical reactions
that break down the small molecules into water and carbon dioxide. The reactions also release