I often take pen to paper and laud the incredible benefits of the Maryland craft brewing industry, and this article is certainly no exception. By and large craft beer drinkers are aware, if not invested in many important causes surrounding craft beer from the myriad health benefits to the positive impact on the Chesapeake Bay. Admittedly there are innumerable reasons to support craft beer not the least of which is economic- but that is not what this is about.
Bioremediation- if you haven’t heard of it, you are not alone. It is a relatively obscure term for society at large, but one worth getting to know. Bioremediation is technically defined as the treatment of pollutants or waste by the use of microorganisms that break down the undesirable substances. It seems pretty straight forward, and it is…mostly. There are two classes of bioremediation in-situ (leaving waste at point of origin and treating it), and ex-situ (removing the waste from the point of origin and treating it). There are nine different types of bioremediation depending upon what type of waste is being dealt with and the most effective method to eradicate it. Bioremediation, depending upon the class, type, and contaminant being treated can be effective in as little as a few hours, yet may take as long as several decades to treat.
Craft beer connoisseurs that have spent time at a craft brewery are generally aware that Maryland breweries give away their spent grain to farmers to use as feed; others bake it into bread or make rabbit treats. Bioremediation offers yet another avenue, and one that may just save the planet. Craft beer, more specifically the byproduct of it, has been scientifically examined as an agent for bioremediation. Over the past decade various scientists have taken up the study of spent grain as a bioremediation agent to treat crude oil contaminated soil. They have used both classes (in-situ, and ex-situ) as well as varying types of bioremediation from bioaugmentation to biostimulation.
To break it down in the simplest of terms- studies across the world have demonstrated that brewery spent grains (BSG) are a very good bioremediation agent for treating crude oil contaminated soil, whether on site, or removed for treatment.
“A critical impact of the petroleum industry is the pollution of the environment by crude oil and other related products which are highly toxic and exhibit molecular recalcitrance… and spills are responsible for hydrocarbon contamination causing hazardous effects on flora and fauna of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems due to their complexity and variability.”1
Not only has BSG been shown to reduce hydrocarbons in oil contaminated soil, it also unmasks nutrients in the soil that were shielded by crude oil, allowing the growth of crops and other important vegetation. Additionally, BSG may also be indicated as an agent to replenish barren lands instead of using inorganic fertilizers because BSG is effective and does not cause ocean acidification.2 It also works relatively quickly. Bioremediation using BSG was shown to have an impact in a matter of weeks.
So what does this all boil down to? Further study is needed of course, but it appears that Brewery Spent Grain may be the economical and environmentally friendly way to treat oil contaminated soil and perhaps fertilize barren lands for the harvesting of safe, sustainable, and reliable food stuffs. Not only will it treat the pollutant, but it will help feed the hungry. That settles it- we need to drink more Maryland beer to save the planet!
Beer for Thought!
References for those scientifically inclined:
1.Chimezie Jason Ogugbue, Chiaka Mbakwem-Aniebo and Leera Solomon “Efficacy of brewery spent grain and rabbit droppings on enhanced ex situ bioremediation of an aged crude oil contaminated soil.” IJAMBR, No. 5, 2017, pp. 27-39.
2.Raimi Morufu Olalekan, Sabinus Chibuzor Ezugwu, “Influence of Organic Amendment on Microbial Activities and Growth of Pepper Cultured on Crude Oil Contaminated Niger Delta Soil.” International Journal of Economy, Energy and Environment. Vol. 2, No. 4, 2017, pp. 56-76. doi: 10.11648/j.ijeee.20170204.12
3.Thomas, K. R. and Rahman, P. K. S. M. ‘Brewery wastes. Strategies for sustainability. A review.’, Aspects of Applied Biology, No. 80, 2006, pp.147-153.
4. Abioye, O. P., P. Agamuthu, and A. R. Abdul Aziz. “Biodegradation of Used Motor Oil in Soil Using Organic Waste Amendments.” Biotechnology Research International 2012 (2012): 587041. PMC. Web. 23 Apr. 2018.