<< Return to Industry Reflections

Landfill Treatment Product Exploration: Comparing the Benefits of Bacteria and Enzymes in Biological Waste Treatment

With our growing population, it has become increasingly important to improve upon and advance current waste management technologies. In industrial and consumer markets, biological products are often selected as an environmentally-friendly, energy-efficient option. These have the capabilities of removing both chemical and biological contaminants, as well as accelerating the breakdown of other types of substrates. Products including both microbial inoculants and enzyme concentrates are commonly used in a variety of industrial and household applications. For example, because of their ability to remove unwanted organic matter build up and removal of biofilms, these kinds of products are currently being sold for drain and grease trap applications. In the landfill and waste management industry, both enzymes and bacteria can be used to break down complex waste particles and improve soil/water quality. However, the ways in which enzymes and bacteria work are significantly different. Using cutting edge techniques, Microbial Discovery Group (MDG) is researching both enzyme and microbial degradation to optimize approaches to break down plastic bags in landfills.

Enzymes: Fast and Highly Specific

Enzymes are non-living proteins produced by organisms such as bacteria, fungi, plants and higher life forms. These proteins help catalyze chemical reactions, working in conjunction with substrates. Enzymes function with substrates like a lock and key; if and only if the right enzyme and the right substrate come together under the right conditions – a reaction or degradation occurs. Enzymes are produced by bacteria or fungi to break down substrates that are too large and complex for bacteria or other living things to consume. In these situations, enzymes can be used to bind to and accelerate the breakdown of a substrate into more digestible pieces.

Benefits of using enzymes in biological waste treatment include their ability to quickly act on a substrate, a controllable application rate (when the concentration of enzyme is known), and precise activity. However, this precise activity isn’t ideal for all applications. The lock and key mechanism necessary for function means that enzymes are highly specific to the type of material present, which can be problematic and not cost-efficient for complex systems. Other limitations include a narrow spectrum of different environmental factors required for activity such as temperature and pH, as well as their potential for hazard on employee health. Enzyme usage can be limited with large scale applications such as wastewater. This is because they do not grow within the application, and are expensive to produce due to the isolation and purification processes for collecting, concentrating and stabilizing the enzymes. One approach to make these more cost effective is to produce them with the use of genetically modified organisms (GMO), but this requires a lengthy regulatory process to gain environmental release approvals. Enzyme activity can also decrease in the presence of inhibitors or less than optimal conditions. These limitations present an economic challenge when scaling for commercial application (e.g. wastewater, landfills).

Bacillus: Adaptable and Stable

Bacteria are diverse, ubiquitous, and abundant in nature. Bacillus comprise a genus of bacteria capable of producing a wide range of active metabolites, making them desirable for use in a host of industrial and consumer applications, including wastewater treatment. The capabilities of Bacillus are leveraged in products throughout several different industries. They are relatively inexpensive to manufacture, highly stable due to spore formation, capable of adapting to inhospitable conditions, and are often active within a wide range of pH and temperature conditions– all of which make them optimal for a large variety of commercial applications.

Unlike the limitations of enzymes, Bacillus are not restricted to activity upon a single substrate. Bacillus can produce an assortment of extracellular enzymes that aid in degradation of complex substrates and may also have the ability to metabolize resulting byproducts. For example, enzymes can alter the surface properties of plastics, allowing the microbial consumption of intermediates. With these capabilities, they can reduce chemical oxygen demand, hydrocarbons, nitrogen, phosphorus, odors and pollutants, all while improving the quality of the environment. In addition to the treatment of leachate, wastewater and soil, these microbes can also accelerate the degradation of municipal solid wastes and oxidize the tough aromatic rings in polymers and plastics. However, because Bacillus are live microorganisms, they do need appropriate conditions and time to germinate and grow in order to produce enzymes and other active metabolites. Additionally, a sufficient amount of substrate needs to be present to nourish and sustain the Bacillus population. Despite this delay in activity relative to enzymes, Bacillus based products can be highly economical long-term; as they require less product due to multiplication/reproduction and beneficial biofilm formation in the target location.

Together: The Best of Both Worlds

The use of enzyme concentrates and bacterial inoculants offer unique solutions for various commercial applications. Both are proven to be successful in removing contaminants and accelerating the degradation of different wastes in diverse systems. While enzymes work quickly, they may be less economical for large-scale production and in industrial and municipal applications. Alternatively, albeit a slower process while they are growing and multiplying in the application, certain bacteria such as Bacillus can provide an efficient, cost-effective method of treatment via enzyme production and metabolization, and may provide increasing benefits over time as establishment occurs. Biological products containing a combination of enzymes and microbials may provide dual benefits for optimal performance. This could provide a one-two punch: the enzymes working immediately to attack specific substrates, while the bacteria provide a stable solution for a longer period of application. Synergistic effects of enzyme and bacterial combinations may provide additional degradative benefit, as end products from enzymatic reactions may serve as growth substrates for the bacterial inoculant. In turn, bacteria may metabolize a range of additional substrates that free binding sites for enzymatic action.

Here at MDG, we manufacture Bacillus and are passionate about making a profound impact against the plastic pollution in landfills. While we are still in the early stages of developing a product containing stable biologics, our Bacillus and the enzymes produced have potential for playing a role in greatly accelerating the remediation of different wastes within landfills. MDG is currently forming partnerships within the waste management and bioaugmentation industries to begin field pilot system trials. Our goal is to further examine the abilities of these unique strains alone or in combination with other landfill plastic degrading technologies and determine their effect on plastic bag degradation under large scale landfill conditions.

Contact Us if you are interested in discussing possible partnership opportunities.

To find out more about MDG’s proprietary blend of plastic-degrading BacillusCLICK HERE.

Search Insights
Recently Posted Insights

The Commercialization of Microbial Solutions

As a Bacillus manufacturer, we work to grow our partners’ pure single-strain Bacillus cultures and scale the process so that they receive exactly what they need. Our success in the commercialization of microbial solutions comes from our trusted process and our...

How to Handle Odors Within Septic Systems After Spring Thaw

Spring’s warmer weather and longer days are always welcome after a cold winter, but for septic tank owners and operators, this seasonal transition can bring a significant problem: odors. Now that spring thaw has occurred and the heat of summer is setting in, septic...

In-Field and In-House Expertise in Wastewater Treatment

When your wastewater customers are facing challenges, you want a partner with proven success and extensive expertise in wastewater treatment. At Microbial Discovery Group, we can be that partner. MDG stands as a leading expert in bioaugmentation, holding in-field and...


Since the completion of our Oak Creek facility in the fall of 2022, we have steadily grown our capacities and capabilities as a trusted provider of Bacillus-based solutions. We are excited to announce that our growth has given us the opportunity to expand our...

Upcoming Webinar: Creating Quality Microbial Products

Producing high-quality microbial products for industrial, institutional, and consumer applications is essential for our partners. In our upcoming webinar, we will explore the critical aspects of microbial product development and how we ensure quality products for your...

Proven Success Treating Sludge with Biotifx®

If your customers are working in the biological wastewater treatment industry, chances are they’re dealing with the challenges of organic sludge. Sludge, the waste components left over after the wastewater has been treated, is a constant expense for facilities, and...

Sludge Tanks 101: Treating the Waste

Throughout the wastewater treatment process, certain components are left over that get separated from the treated water. This collection of leftovers is called sludge, which is then further treated in tanks. At Microbial Discovery Group (MDG), we have explored the...

Lagoons 101: Identification and Long-Term Treatment Approach

Lagoons and ponds have been used for treating wastewater for over 3,000 years. Today, there are over 8,000 wastewater treatment lagoons operating in the United States. One appeal to using lagoons is that they generally require less energy than other treatment systems...

Industry Reflections

Bacillus, Distinguishing Species and Strains Part I

Bacillus Species Identification Methods: Definitions, Pros, and Cons Understanding the effectiveness of Bacillus products is easy to understand because in many cases we can visibly see the difference. But, it is hard to see what exactly makes up the product. Like most companies, you have probably asked suppliers “what

Fats, Oils and Grease: Bacillus vs. The Alternatives

What do many commercial, residential, industrial and institutional facilities all have in common? If you said a door, you’re technically correct; but for the purpose of today’s article the correct answer was Fats, Oils and Grease (FOG)! All of your customers facilities have drains, and drains are sought-after hosts


What is bioaugmentation?

At MDG, we continue to discover all the possibilities to treat wastewater with Bacillus. Through years of research and development, we’ve found that bioaugmentation is the answer for wastewater treatment. Bioaugmentation is the process of adding scientifically selected organisms to a microbial community to enhance that community. The term bioaugmentation

Pulp and Paper Lagoons Problems

It’s been a tough few years for the pulp and paper (P&P) industry. With an increase in foreign competition and a lowered demand for paper, many facilities have had to tighten their belt. One of the most probable victims of these cuts are the wastewater treatment systems. Wastewater needs

Supplying Quality: One Strain at a Time

In the large-scale liquid bacterial fermentation world, there are two primary ways to grow bacteria: as individual strains or in combination with others. At Microbial Discovery Group, we grow one strain at a time as it has served us well over the past decade. Truth be told, if I

News and Insights

The Benefits of Liquid Dosing

Many wastewater distributors are faced with finding an efficient product to combat common challenges such as sludge, fats, oils, and grease, and odors. Bacillus-based products have been proven highly effective and reliable to reduce, eliminate, and alleviate these challenges in the wastewater market. Did You Know These Products Come in

Are You Offering a Bacillus RV Septic Treatment?

Outdoor activities like RV camping are an ideal way for travelers to escape indoor isolation. It’s all about packing up the necessities and hitting the open road. Living out of an RV camper for any amount of time will likely include eating, sleeping, and using the bathroom. These are

Top 5 Tips to Prevent Septic System Back-Ups

According to the EPA, about 1 in 5 US homes depend on septic systems, and with the uptick in professionals working from home, septic tank maintenance and backup prevention tips are among some of the top online searches. Septic service companies are in high demand, more people are home

FAQs on Bacillus Strains in the I&I Market

1. How do MDG’s Bacillus strains help reduce a variety of organic materials such as debris, decaying food, human and pet waste and FOG? MDG offers Bacillus-based products with different Bacillus strains that have a wide array of capabilities. Bacillus are living organisms and need food to live and multiply. They break down and consume