Enzymatic degradation of cotton used for spill absorption
Oil spills in marine environments produce observable impacts on the ecosystems and require immediate responses. Methods to minimize the impacts involve clean-up and collection of oil by in situ burning, biodegradation, dispersants, booms, skimmers, and sorbent materials. Cellulose-based organic sorbent materials have the advantages of selective removal of oil over water, biodegradability, relatively low cost, and limited impact on the environment. Cotton and wool fibers could replace synthetic materials, such as polypropylene, as the sorbents of choice in oil spill removal. Cotton and wool fibers biodegrade, preferentially adsorb oil over water due to the natural wax coat on their surfaces, and can be easily disposed.
Cellulose sorbents are also used in cleaning and maintenance of equipment in laboratories. Generally, cheesecloth and laboratory wipes are used in cleaning of radioactive wastes produced in nuclear laboratories such as the Department of Energy's Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). The radionuclide-contaminated cellulose wastes require suitable means of degradation and disposal. Untreated radioactive wastes with various levels of radioactive strengths are stored in large volumes over decades throughout the world necessitating disposal.