Biotechnology and Waste
Waste represents one of the three key inter-vention points for the potential use of environmental biotechnology. Moreover, in many ways this particular area of application epitomises much of the whole field, since the management of waste is fundamentally unglamorous, typically funded on a distinctly limited budget and has traditionally been viewed as a nec-essary inconvenience. However, as the price of customary disposal or treatment options has risen, and ever more stringent legislation been imposed, alternative technologies have become increasingly attractive in the light of their greater rel-ative cost-effectiveness. Nowhere has this shift of emphasis been more apparent than in the sphere of biological waste treatment.
With all of environmental biotechnology it is a self-evident truism that what-ever is to be treated must be susceptible to biological action and hence the word ‘biowaste’ has been coined to distinguish the generic forms of organic-origin refuse which meet this criterion, from waste in the wider sense, which does not. This approach also removes much of the confusion which has, historically, dogged the issue, since the material has been variously labelled putrescible, green,yard, food or even just organic waste, at certain times and by differing authors,over the years. By accepting the single term biowaste to cover all such refuse, the difficulties produced by regionally, or nationally, accepted criteria for waste categorisation are largely obviated and the material can be viewed purely in terms of its ease of biodegradability. Hence a more process-based perspective emerges, which is often of considerably greater relevance to the practical concerns of actu-ally utilising biotechnology than a straightforward consideration of the particular origins of the waste itself.
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