The Increasing Importance of SSF

Solid-state fermentation will become of ever increasing importance. The need to use rationally the organic solid wastes that we generate will increase as the increasing world population puts increasing pressure on environmental resources.

In the same manner as the world is coming to understand that, in dealing with liquid wastes, "dilution is NOT the solution to pollution", in the case of organic solid wastes, we can say (even if it does not rhyme so well) that "land-filling or disposal in the environment are NOT the solution to dealing with organic solid wastes". Unfortunately the economic models used in the majority of countries do not adequately penalize the generation and inappropriate disposal of organic solid wastes. Organic solid wastes are often treated as "somebody else's problem". The late Douglas Adams, in the book "Life, The Universe and Everything", one of the books of the "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" series, defined "somebody else's problem" as "something that we can't see, or don't see, or our brain doesn't let us see, because we think that it's somebody else's problem" (Adams 1982). Unfortunately, in this case, when we say "somebody else" we mean "our descendants". We bury large quantities of organic solid wastes in the ground or dispose of them inadequately in the environment and wait for the real problem of dealing with them adequately to be faced by future generations. This seems neither sensible nor fair. However, currently, we seem unable or even unwilling to recognize this as a society. As a society we should be dealing adequately with organic solid wastes now and we should feel guilty that we are not doing it. What legacy are we leaving for future generations, not to mention the rest of the ecosystems on this earth?

It may not currently be "economic" to reuse or treat organic solid wastes properly. However, this is a question of the point of view that we use to look at the problem. We need to change our economic models. What price do we put on environmental quality? If we are not careful, sooner or later we are going to be knee-deep in putrefying rubbish. Maybe our difficulty in appreciating the problem is that this will probably not happen in our own lifetimes, but is this really a reason not to worry? We should start thinking harder about organic solid wastes now. We should put a realistic cost on their generation and disposal. The revenue raised can be used to develop and perfect various technologies, including SSF. Of course, the rational processing and treatment of these solids will require a multi-faceted approach. SSF in itself will be only one technology amongst many that will be necessary to cope with the huge volumes that we generate.

Although Holker et al. (2004) do point out correctly that we should be interested in small-scale SSF for specialty products that are induced by the physiological conditions to which the organism is subjected in SSF systems, SSF will also be one of the technologies applied to dealing with the large volumes of organic solid wastes that we generate, so we will need efficient large-scale SSF bioreactors and optimized operating strategies.

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