The United States Environmental Protection Agency defines biodegradation as,
“A process by which microbial organisms transform or alter (through metabolic or enzymatic action) the structure of chemicals introduced into the environment.”
Basically, organic (carbon-based) material is changed through chemical processes from complex molecules into simpler molecules, eventually returning the molecules into the environment. For example, a banana peel can be reduced from cellulose to water, carbon dioxide gas, and humus in a compost pile.
What Makes Biodegradation Important?
Biodegradation is nature’s waste management and recycling system. It breaks down everything from yard waste to crude oil. It is a natural process necessary to keep our planet clean and healthy.
Unfortunately, the rate at which we are producing waste far outpaces the rate of natural biodegradation, making our current state unsustainable. As a result, landfills have been filling up at record rates, and air, water and soil pollution is increasing.