The Composting Research Group (GICOM) from the Department of Chemical, Biological and Environemntal Engineering at Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, was created in 2000 with a clear objective: the study of the composting process as a sustainable technology for the biological treatment of organic waste. GICOM research activity has been foccused on the study of the compostability of diferent wastes (municipal and industrial wastes) and on the improvement of the composting process. The use of advanced control systems to maximize the biological activity is an example of the strategies developed.
Two aspects of the composting process can be considered as the main GICOM areas of expertise: the study of the stability of organic wastes and the determination of the environmental impacts of the treatment process. Stability studies are based on the determination of respirometric indices, which are of great interest at present to define the performance of waste treatment plants (MBT plants, composting plants, anaerobic digestion plants, etc.). These indices are also applied to define stability limits for organic materials deposited in landfills or for the compost used as soil amendment. The study of the environmental impacts associated to the biological treatment of organic waste, is of great interest to be taken into consideration in the waste management and treatment strategies and plans.
Our knowledge of the composting process is nowadays applied to the production of valuable products through the process known as Solid-State Fermentation (SSF). Enzymes such as lipases, proteases or cellulases or biopesticides and biosurfactants can be produced through SSF.
The use of nanomaterials for environmental restoration is another research focus of our group: the treatment of water with specific contaminants (metals and pesticides), the adsorption of Green House Gases and the evaluation of the toxicity of inorganic nanoparticles and their derivatives. Nanoparticles toxicity is determined by respirometry, anaerobic digestion tests, Microtox, seed germination tests and Daphnia Magna studies.
All these research lines are financed by public funds or grants and contracts with companies and public administrations.