The literal meaning of environment is surrounding, it can be defined as aggregate of all those things and set of condition that directly or indirectly influence the life of organisms. The environment consists of both biotic as well as abiotic factors. Thus for a given organism, other organisms constitute a component of the environment, while the organism itself becomes a factor of the environment of other organisms. The source of energy on the earth is solar energy, which trapped in the form of chemical energy by photosynthetic plants and certain microorganisms; they use CO as carbon source (photoautotrophs). However, some bacteria obtain energy from oxidation of simple inorganic compounds and use CO as carbon source; these are called chemoautotrophs. The remaining plants and animals obtain their energy by feeding on, generally, the photoautotrophs directly or on the animals that feed on photoautotrophs.
A comparison of natural and man designed production processes:
|Feature||Natural production processes||Man designed production processes|
|Source of energy||Solar energy, some chemical energy||Energy from biological (fossil and bio-fuels), hydroelectric and nuclear sources|
|Efficiency of energy use||Efficiency very high||Relatively quite low|
|Major elements used as raw materials||C, H, O, N, P, S||Virtually all elements present on the earth|
|By-products/effluents||Not damaging to the environment||Usually damaging to the environment|
|Biodegradable of products||All products biodegradable||Many products difficult to biodegrade; many other non- biodegradable|
The man obtains from the environment his life support systems, which include oxygen, energy, water, raw materials, and nutrients and place to live. The three biotic components of environment, viz, air, water and soil, contribute in various way to the fulfillment of human needs. In turn, the various activities of man, e.g., domestic, agriculture, transport, war efforts, accident etc., generate wastes and pollutants, which contaminate air, water and soil. The awareness to pollution generating effects of human activities has increase dramatically during the past 2-3 decades. In response, man has strived to minimize the effects of his activities on the environment by developing (i) technologies to clean up the pollution generated by other technologies (such technologies are called ‘end of the pipe’ technologies), and (ii) production technologies, which are ‘cleaner’ and generate less pollution (these are called front of the pipe’ technologies). Both these approaches minimize damage to the environment. However, the term environmental biotechnology, is applied only to the ‘end of pipe technology using biological agents, i.e., biotechnological approaches applied to the management of environmental problem.
|Components||provided to man||Contribution to the environment||Activities|
|Life support system
|wastes(to soils and water components)||-domestic
-place to live
|pollutants(to air, water and soil soil components)||-transport
Any product, by-product or residue that can’t be used profitably is knows as waste. A waste product is regarded as a pollutant when it damages the environment. Often wastes and pollutants are intricately linked. In simple words, pollutants are generally wastes, all wastes are not pollutants. The wastes may be biological, chemical and physical in nature.