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There are different ways to approach the task of cleaning an area of land that has become polluted and one of the fundamental challenges you face with this task is that the pollution you are trying to eliminate can be invisible to the naked eye but less harmful if these poisons are seeping from the ground.
One proven technique to approach this problem with is effective bioremediation which is established as a land cleaning technology that is able to turn waste into safer end products, plus phytoremediation, which is a plant-based concept that aims to pull contaminants from the soil.
Here is a look at the causes of land pollution and what methods are being used to clean these areas, with the environmental impact a key consideration.
Numerous causes of land pollution
One of the difficulties facing those charged with the task of cleaning an area of polluted land is the fact that there are a significant number of ways to cause the damage in the first place, such as soil contamination caused by chemical or waste poisoning, landfill waste, or atmospheric deposition, which is when land becomes damaged by air pollution.
One of the major challenges in a world today, where the global population is growing, is waste disposal, and we are producing vast quantities of industrial and consumer waste.
Not all waste disposal leads to land pollution but it has now become abundantly clear that we are trying to dispose of huge quantities of materials (such as plastics) that our natural environment does not know how to break down.
Urbanization of huge areas of land also create some serious challenges as such a concentration of people in one area means that their waste has got to go somewhere.
If you were in any doubt about the land pollution threat that urbanization poses, you might want to consider the statistics produced by the Global Footprint Network, which shows that most countries have an ecological footprint that greatly exceeds their biocapacity.
In other words, we are using much more than we produce, and concentrating this waste problem in dense urban areas increases the threat of water or land pollution.
Air pollution and the impact of using agricultural chemicals, together with soil erosion, are also recognized as major causes of land pollution.
Why is land pollution such an issue?
When you consider that only about a third of Earths surface is land and there are many billions of humans occupying this space, it should be crystal clear that if we pollute the land we rely on and do nothing about it, we are all going to be in trouble.
We rely on the land for plants and as most of the food that feeds the planet is grown on the surface of this planet, a solution to the problem of pollution is not really optional.
Action to tackle this problem is imperative and there are two aspects to this, we need to find an effective way to stop polluting the land in the first place, and there needs to be an effective way of cleaning up the land that has already become contaminated.
In simple terms, bioremediation is a process that has been developed where organisms are introduced into the contaminated area of land in order to neutralize and remove harmful toxins from waste.
A major benefit associated with bioremediation is that it does not use any toxic chemicals in the process. The treatment uses naturally occurring organisms as a way of breaking down hazardous substances so that they become either less toxic or totally non-toxic substances.
The fact that bioremediation does not involve the use of chemicals is a major benefit and it is anticipated that this is a method that will continue to be used extensively in the future while the use of chemicals in waste management is consigned to the past.
The opportunity for recycling waste
Another useful and important aspect of the bioremediation process is that after the waste has been treated and the contamination has been removed altogether or neutralized, there is then an opportunity to recycle the waste.
This offers a significant advantage over chemical remediation methods as waste treated in this way cannot enter the recycling process.
In summary, using bioremediation creates the ability to recycle more waste and chemical methods gave their limitations because chemical methods still create waste that needs to be stored somewhere.
Another technology that is more eco-friendly than the use of chemicals is phytoremediation.
This method uses a concept that is very similar to bioremediation, but instead of using organisms, plants are used as a way of removing contaminants from the soil.
Other types of bioremediation
There are also a number of other options to consider when searching for a solution to deal with land pollution.
Bioventing is a treatment method that involves blowing air through contaminated soil in order to increase oxygen rates in the waste, which has the effect of neutralizing a variety of oxygen-sensitive chemicals and metals in the land.
Bioleaching can be used to remove metals from soil using living organisms. It seems that certain types of organisms are naturally drawn to heavy metals and other contaminants, which they then absorb.
Other recognized methods include composting, which involves containing waste in a way that encourages natural decay, and rhizofiltration, which involves the use of plants as a way of removing metals that have contaminated water.
These are just a few of a large number of different types of bioremediation that are currently being used in a variety of different circumstances.
One of the overriding advantages of using a bioremediation approach is that once the contamination has been treated it produces a waste product that is much easier to dispose of, and there are scenarios where there is no requirement for disposal after treatment at all.
That is why this genre of land cleaning technology is being championed as the way forward when contending with contamination.