EEP European Environmental Press

Using respiration indices

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Source: EEP European Environmental Press

Respiration is directly related to the metabolic activity of a microbial population. Micro-organisms breathe at higher rates in the presence of large amounts of bio-available organic matter, while the respiration rate is slower if this type of material is scarce. In the composting process, respiration activity has become an important parameter for determining the stability of compost. It is also used for monitoring the composting process and is considered an important factor for estimating the maturity of the material. A wide range of respirometric protocols has been reported based either on CO2 production, O2 uptake, or the release of heat. The most common methods are those based on O2 uptake. Respirometric assays are affected by a number of parameters including temperature, humidity and incubation and pre-incubation conditions.

Results from respirometries are generally expressed as Respiration Indices, most of them with their own units and basis. In consequence, some confusion exists when referring to and comparing respiration indices. This is particularly important because current and future legislation defines and measures the biological stability of waste on the basis of the respiration activity of the material.

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