Recipe for Rot

photo of rotting vegetation "Biodegradable" describes a material that can be broken down by living things under the right environmental conditions into simple compounds such as carbon dioxide and water.
Photo courtesy of Rodale Stock Images.

Living Things

  • Bacteria and fungi -- found in the soil and in the air -- begin the work of digesting and consuming biodegradable material. They can consume nearly any organic material.
  • Insects and worms -- hundreds of different types of critters chomp, chew, and break down materials.

    Environmental Conditions

  • Availability of oxygen. Some microbes require oxygen ("aerobic" decomposition) and some microbes don't require oxygen ("anaerobic" decomposition).
  • Amount of moisture. Without moisture, little decomposition can take place (the situation in most landfills).
  • Temperature. Mesophilic microbes thrive in temperatures of 50° - 113° F (10° - 45° C), while higher temperatures increase the activity of thermophilic microbes.

    activity icon Activity: Homemade Terrarium

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