Difference between biodegradation and bioremediation

The key difference between biodegradation and bioremediation is that biodegradation is a natural process that occurs in the environment. 

On the other hand, bioremediation is an engineered technique applied by humans to clean the environment. Both processes are governed mainly by microorganisms.

A large number of bacterial and fungal species possess the capability of degrading organic pollutants in the environment.

  • Biodegradation is a microorganism-mediated decomposition of organic matter.
  • Bioremediation is a technique applied by people to clean up organic matter and other substances. This is done by using microbes with the biodegradation process.

What is Biodegradation?

  • Microorganisms play a key role in the decomposition of organic materials accumulated in the environment.
  • They are the recyclers of nutrients in the soil.
  • Almost all biogeochemical cycles are driven by the indigenous microbial population in the soil.
  • Biodegradation is the process in which organic compounds are degraded or broken down by the microorganisms.
  • It is an important process that replenishes the environment with nutrients.
  • Microorganisms degrade organic material for their growth and metabolism.
  • As a result, complex organic substances are converted into carbon dioxide and water.

Following are the modes of biodegradation:

  1. Aerobic biodegradation
  2. Anaerobic biodegradation

Aerobic biodegradation is done by aerobic microorganisms when an adequate supply of oxygen is available for their activity.

It is a rapid method that degrades the contaminants completely when compared to anaerobic biodegradation.

Anaerobic biodegradation takes place in the absence of oxygen. Its pathway has four major steps:

  1. Hydrolysis
  2. Acidogenesis
  3. Acetogenesis
  4. Methanogenesis

Organic substances are subjected to anaerobic digestion and converted into carbon dioxide and methane.

What is Bioremediation?

Bioremediation is the process that uses either microorganisms or plants to clean polluted environments.

Naturally occurring or introduced organisms, especially microorganisms, which break down environmental pollutants, can be used in bioremediation.


The main objective of the bioremediation is to convert hazardous substances into non-toxic or less toxic substances using biological agents.


Bioremediation technology can be divided into two main categories as:

  1. in-situ bioremediation
  2. ex-situ bioremediation

In situ bioremediation

Contaminants are broken down at the site of the originated in in-situ bioremediation.

Ex-situ bioremediation

Some contaminants are treated out of the contamination site.

This kind of bioremediation is known as ex-situ bioremediation.

Bioremediation is a biotechnological approach to controlling environmental pollution.

The natural biodegradable ability of biological agents such as bacteria, fungi, plants are explored in bioremediation.

Bioremediation involves the manipulation of the environmental parameters such as pH, temperature, moisture content, etc. to obtain optimal growth of microorganisms and achieves a higher rate of degradation.


Some examples of this technology are:

  • phytoremediation
  • bioventing
  • bioleaching
  • land farming
  • bioreactor
  • composting
  • bioaugmentation
  • biostimulation

Difference between biodegradation and bioremediation

Difference between biodegradation and bioremediation

Biodegradation vs Bioremediation

Biodegradation is the process of decomposing organic materials in the environment by microorganisms. Bioremediation is a waste management technique that uses biological agents to clean the contaminants in the environment.

Nature of the Process

It is a natural process that happens without human intervention. It is an engineered process that happens with human intervention.


This is a slow process. This is a faster process.


It is controlled by nature. It is a controlled process.


It is both beneficial and harmful. It always has beneficial effects.

Time and Location

It happens everywhere in the environment. It happens at the contaminated site.

Need for Expertise

There is no need for experts. Experts are required to design and implement this process.


  • Biodegradation is the ability of microorganisms to decompose organic materials in the environment.
  • Bacteria and fungi are well-known decomposers in the soil which help to recycle elements in the environment.
  • The majority of the pollutants are degraded completely by aerobic biodegradation in the presence of oxygen.
  • Anaerobic biodegradation is done under oxygen-absent environments.
  • Bioremediation is a biotechnological approach that uses biological agents to clean contaminants in the environment.
  • In bioremediation, organisms are introduced to the contaminated site or enhanced the natural microorganisms by providing suitable growth requirements.
  • Bioremediation uses the biodegrading ability of microorganisms to speed up the environment cleaning process.


  1. ”Biodegradation and Bioremediation.” Google Books. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Mar. 2017.
  2. ”Microbial Bioremediation: A Potential Tool for Restoration of Contaminated Areas.” Microbial Bioremediation: A Potential Tool for Restoration of Contaminated Areas – Microbial Biodegradation and Bioremediation – 1. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Mar. 2017.
  3. “Biodegradation of Pollutants” By Timmer26 – Own work (CC BY-SA 4.0) via Commons Wikimedia.
  4. “Phytoremediation Process – svg” By Townie (Arulnangai & Xavier Dengra from the original in .png extension) – Own work (CC BY-SA 4.0) via Commons Wikimedia.
  5. https://www.differencebetween.com/difference-between-biodegradation-and-vs-bioremediation/


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