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Bio2clean is a pioneering company that is spearheading a new remediation technique, phytoremediation. This is a sustainable and green remediation technique that uses natural processes to remediate contaminated soil or (ground) water through plants and microorganisms. With this remediation technique, bio2clean ensures a healthier environment, cleaner soil, and improved groundwater quality.
To keep it short and simple, bio2clean stands for “remediation of soil and groundwater in an environmentally friendly, sustainable and qualitative way.”
Bio2clean uses phytoremediation to remediate contaminated soils, water, or sediment. This technique is a sustainable, green remediation technology and a low-cost alternative to current remediation methods.
More specifically, phytoremediation uses plants and their associated microorganisms to remove pollutants through degradation, extraction, transformation, or volatilization. The plants absorb the contaminants, break them down into harmless products and/or store them in plant tissues. By focusing on purifying contaminated (ground) water, bio2clean improves water quality by removing and controlling unacceptable ecological risks. Because of this phytoremediation contributes to the UN Sustainable Development Goal 6: Clean Water and Sanitation and SDG 14: Life Below Water.
Not only plants are crucial in the phytoremediation process; microorganisms also play an essential role. For example, they are a significant factor in the decomposition processes and are also often very important for plant health. Microorganisms form an important symbiosis with the plant. On the one hand, the plant excretes certain substances that microorganisms need, and microorganisms, on the other hand, eliminate certain substances that the plant needs. Thus, they keep each other in balance. That's also why bio2clean stresses the importance of microorganisms.
Using plants to get the contamination out of the soil acceded to SDG 15: Life on Land. Phytoremediation contributes to protecting, restoring, and promoting the sustainable use of ecosystems, managing forests, and combating desertification and land degradation. Moreover, phytoremediation also contributes to biodiversity.
Phytoremediation belongs to the Net-Positive Impact concept since it will purify polluted soils. Moreover, the process of phytoremediation doesn’t harm the ecologic system, as it is a technique that uses nature and microorganisms to remediate sites. So this technique will ensure that soil and water quality is improved.
Furthermore, the remediation time of phytoremediation projects depends, among other things, on the pumping capacity of plants and trees, but the quantity and quality of microorganisms are also necessary. The greater the pumping capacity of the plant, the faster the remediation process can occur.
Since phytoremediation relies entirely on the action of plants and microorganisms, bio2clean always keeps two preconditions in mind for this technique to be applied. On the one hand, there should be sufficient space for greenery. Suppose the contamination is under a building or in a highly urbanized area. In that case, it isn't easy to create a green environment and be able to apply the technology. On the other hand, the contamination must also be accessible to the plants themselves, specifically the roots. For each situation, bio2clean analyzes the contamination state and the various preconditions. Based on that analysis, they will prepare a planting plan to address the contamination. For planting and maintaining the sites, bio2clean collaborates with social economy companies. In this way, they support struggling people in the regular labor market.
In addition to this great initiative that demonstrates bio2clean's commitment to SDG 17 - Partnerships for the goals, bio2clean is also contributing with their business innovation (phytoremediation) to many other UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and thus to a sustainable world.
The business manager, Dirk Dubin, first came into contact with phytoremediation, while working as an environmental engineer at Ford Genk. At the time, a remediation project was set up with the Uhasselt on the company site. He immediately saw the potential of this technique, "In 1999, I was confronted with soil contamination at Ford Genk where we called in the assistance of the CMK (Centre for Environmental Sciences) of the UHasselt in a soil remediation project. That was when I came into contact with Professor Dr. Jaco Vangronsveld, the pioneer in the field of micro-organism-assisted phytoremediation."
Mario Clemmens, the co-manager of bio2clean, co-founded bio2clean in 2015. As a former soil remediation expert, he was convinced that the research around phytoremediation was advanced enough to apply in practice.
Bio2clean was started because they wanted to effectively put the theory tested extensively at the CMK into practice and commercialize this remediation method.
The impact of phytoremediation on its external environment is significant. As mentioned earlier, soil and (ground) water remediation via phytoremediation technology reduces exposure to pollutants. It adds value to humans and ecosystems both on business sites and residential environments by creating greener environments. In addition, phytoremediation helps reduce the urban heat island when applied in the built environment by providing greenery and creating shade. Deploying phytoremediation also minimizes the use of fossil fuels and hence the carbon footprint of soil and (groundwater) remediation, hereby bio2clean contributes to SDG 13.
Unfortunately, phytoremediation cannot be applied everywhere. As mentioned earlier in the business innovation, the environment must comply with two necessary conditions before phytoremediation can be used: (1) there must be space for greenery, and (2) the contamination must be accessible to the plants. In addition, the deployment of phytoremediation can quickly take up to 10 years, depending on certain factors such as type of contamination, environment, etc.
The use of phytoremediation in the field is still in its early stages. Within the soil remediation world, this nature-based technique is not yet regarded as a common soil remediation technique. A lot of trust still needs to be gained among companies and soil remediation experts. Because of this phytoremediation is not yet used on a large scale, but the ability to upscale is certainly present.
Bio2clean is well on its way to promote this technique. They do this not only by applying phytoremediation in practice, but also by offering advice and training on this sustainable and ecological technique.
Bio2clean's profits are relatively limited at the moment. Phytoremediation is a new technique that can be described as a radical innovation, which is why many companies have limited experience with it. They tend to be more reluctant to use sustainable techniques for soil and groundwater remediation. Still, since the popularity of sustainable practices is growing, more and more companies will be interested in using these instead of traditional ones. The company's prospects are positive, which is why it expects to grow even further and hire employees later on.
Since its foundation, the company has mainly focused on soil remediation, but there seems to be a great opportunity in agricultural and natural areas. These areas are interesting because they suffer from contamination, and taking care of administrative obligations is more accessible in these cases.
Besides looking for new markets, the company has started developing an inoculum. Currently, the company uses microorganisms that target 1 type of contamination, but in the future, microorganisms can be more widely applicable. Besides using one microorganism for multiple contaminants, the company will also investigate whether a combination of microorganisms can be used for various pollutants.
Furthermore, bio2clean is starting up a promising collaboration with an international company that focuses on the research of microorganisms. Since this company uses microorganisms in phytoremediation, it provides additional opportunities for bio2clean. For instance, it can positively impact the scalability on which the company operates. This renewal of the innovation allows bio2clean to address more potential customers, which will also bring in more projects.
Phytoremediation offers many benefits for society and the environment. On the one hand, remediation improves soil and (ground) water quality, which also positively affects aquatic life and biodiversity. On the other hand, remediation also reduces the likelihood of human risks.
Besides improving soil and (ground) water quality and reducing human risks, phytoremediation offers several other added values. Phytoremediation helps create a greener environment. This has a positive effect on the living environment in general and ensures the promotion of human well-being.
"Phytoremediation is much cheaper, the soil is not disturbed, no transport is involved and it works on solar energy."
Compared to traditional remediation techniques, phytoremediation has many advantages. Since plants and microorganisms play the leading role, this remediation technique operates mainly on solar energy. Consequently, energy and maintenance costs are limited. In addition, phytoremediation is highly sustainable since remediation is done on-site and requires little or no transportation. These arguments show that phytoremediation has a small footprint and is a less expensive alternative to traditional remediation techniques. These explanations also show that phytoremediation has a net-positive impact.
Not only does the remediation technique used by bio2clean offer benefits, but the way they work during remediation projects benefits society and the environment. Regarding community, bio2clean supports social economy enterprises by actively engaging them in planting and maintaining various contaminated sites. In addition, bio2clean also constantly explores the surrounding area before setting up a remediation project. For example, they analyze what plantings are already present at the site so that they can incorporate them into the phytoremediation project if necessary. Plants already in place are often integrated with them and not simply destroyed in a remediation project.
In short, phytoremediation is a very environmentally friendly, sustainable, and ecological remediation technique that offers many benefits to society and the environment. In addition, as mentioned earlier, phytoremediation belongs 100% to the net positive impact.
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Dirk Dubin, Founder
Bio2clean is a spin-off from Hasselt University and stands for the remediation of soil and groundwater in a qualitative, sustainable, and environmentally friendly way. They offer a wide range of services: from feasibility studies to the complete realization of soil remediation using phytoremediation.