Is cow dung biodegradable? (11 uses of cow dung)

In this article, it shall be known whether cow dung is biodegradable or not. Other aspects covered would be: 

  • What is biodegradability?
  • Why should cow dung be biodegradable?
  • What is cow dung?
  • Can you reuse cow dung?
  • What are the utilitarian aspects of cow dung?
  • How can cow dung be used as fertiliser?
  • How can cow dung be used as biofuel?
  • How can cow dung be used as compost?
  • FAQs

Is cow dung biodegradable?

Yes, cow dung is biodegradable because it contains natural ingredients. It is also concluded that cow dung is of good utilitarian value because of its composition. 

As a result, various utilitarian advantages and aspects of cow dung are seen which may include use as manure, use as a fertiliser, use for compost, use as a biofuel, and use as a fibre source. 

What is biodegradability?

Biodegradability can be explained as a process through which complex substances are broken down into simpler substances by the action of microbes. This process is out there in nature to make sure that there is no waste left. 

The simple substances produced after the process of biodegradability can become a part of nature so that there is no waste accumulation and no negative effects imparted by that accumulated waste. 

The microbes responsible for the process of biodegradability are bacteria, fungi, decomposers, yeast, algae, and protozoa. All these microbes break down the complex structures to ensure that there is no waste left. 

Regarding biodegradability, it is generally perceived that natural substances are more prone to biodegradation. Examples of such substances can be animal and plant waste. 

Whereas, it is claimed that non-natural substances which in other words can also be called man-made are not generally biodegradable because microbes are unable to break their structures. 

The process of biodegradability is nature’s own way of dealing with and disposal of waste because otherwise there can be many bad consequences for the environment and human health. 

Why should cow dung be biodegradable?

You may stumble upon the importance of cow dung being biodegradable or not. You may also wonder what difference would the biodegradability of cow dung create in the world. This section will answer all such questions. 

Biodegradability is of high importance because otherwise there can be many harmful effects of waste on the environment and life in general. 

Non-biodegradable waste such as plastics, e-waste, nuclear waste et cetera may persist in the environment for hundreds of years and may release harmful and toxic chemicals and gases during that time.

These harmful gases and chemicals may pollute water, land and air and may also cause several health risks as well. For example, non-biodegradable polymers are associated with neurological problems, skin and eye diseases, birth defects, and even cancers. 

The current waste generation stands at a stunning 2 billion tons per year. Each year, 2 billion tons of waste is added to the environment which has to be managed by the waste management authorities. 

Now imagine, if that 2 billion tons of waste is not degraded within a month then this would mean that next years’ waste would also be added and before we know it, the quantity of waste generated and accumulated would exceed the number of people on the planet. 

Therefore, it is important that there should be more biodegradable waste which can be degraded by the action of microbes within months if not days because otherwise, our earth will continue to become more and more unlivable every day. 

As per studies conducted by the Food and Agriculture Organisation, there are approximately 1.5 billion cattle in the world. These figures are surely bound to increase exponentially given the increased demand of cattle. 

Imagine, if the waste generated by these 1.5 billion cattle is not degradable. Can you fathom the consequences?

What is cow dung?

You may have a very decent idea of what cow dung is but before we move to the main part of our article which is whether cow dung is biodegradable or not, we need to properly understand what cow dung is and what it is made of. 

Cow dung is the waste produced by bovine animal species. This waste (faeces) is also called cow pats, cow pies, and cow manure. 

Cow dung is a mixture of faeces and urine in a ratio of three to one. The major components of cow dung are lignin, cellulose and hemicellulose. 

Cow dung also contains various minerals (which are claimed to be 24 in amount by research). These may be: 

  • Nitrogen 
  • Potassium
  • Sulphur
  • Iron 
  • Copper 
  • Cobalt 
  • Manganese 
  • Zinc
  • Phosphorus 
  • Calcium 

Along With these minerals, research claims that cow dung also contains microbes such as bacteria, protozoa and yeast. 

As per studies, it is said that an average cattle can produce up to 120 pounds of waste (faeces & urine) each day. 

Is cow dung biodegradable?

After properly understanding the concept and applications of biodegradability, let us get straight to our main question which is whether cow dung is biodegradable or not. 

It has already been established that natural substances are more prone to the concept of biodegradation because microbes can break down their structure into simpler waste which can become a part of nature again or can be of good utilitarian value. 

Cow dung, as we have seen, is the excreta of bovine animal species. Since it is all-natural, it is biodegradable. 

Other than being biodegradable, cow dung also has a good utilitarian value which shall be explored in the coming sections of the article. 

Is cow dung recyclable?

After covering the biodegradability of cow dung, the next big question of environmental significance is whether cow dung is recyclable or not. 

With the increased consumerism and environmental concern, the concept of 3R is gaining popularity. These 3R mean reuse, reduce and recycle. 

This concept stems from the endeavours in an attempt to reduce waste and consume products in a more sustainable fashion. If products are reused, reduced and recycled, then this simply means that the strain caused on the environment is reduced. 

It is claimed that cow dung is indeed recyclable and therefore can be reused for a variety of purposes. An example can be that cow dung can be used as fertilisers to improve the quality of the soil. 

In doing so, farmers and environmentalists make sure that the dependence on chemical-based fertilisers is reduced because the effects of these chemical-based fertilisers are quite bad for both man and the environment. 

As it has been established that cow waste also has water contents in it, the reuse of cow waste also ensures that water is saved because water is a limited resource and many people are devoid of it. 

In reusing cow dung, we all get one step closer to the ultimate goal of saving water not only for our present but also for our future. 

What are the utilitarian aspects of cow waste?  (11 uses of cow dung)

Cow waste can be used for a variety of purposes. In the last section, it already has been established that cow waste or cow manure can be reused and recycled to give off good utilitarian value to the community. 

The use of cow dung for its utilitarian value dates back to many centuries even before the advent of proper science. 

As per research, the various uses of cow dung can be: 

  • Fertilisers
  • Energy source
  • Biomass
  • Soil amendment 
  • Construction material 
  • Manure
  • Organic matter source
  • Compost 
  • Biogas 
  • Bio-oil
  • Fibres 

The cow dung is composed of many important minerals. These minerals include 

  • Nitrogen 
  • Potassium
  • Sulphur
  • Iron 
  • Copper 
  • Cobalt 
  • Manganese 
  • Zinc
  • Phosphorus 
  • Calcium 

How can cow dung be used as a fertiliser?

Due to the presence of these minerals, cow dung can become really good fertilisers because it can improve soil quality. And this is what that happens and has been happening. 

Cow dung is and has been used as a natural fertiliser to improve crop yield and soil fertility. It also has good effects on the plants because of the presence of minerals mentioned above. 

This aspect is also important because the use of natural fertilisers inevitably means the reduction of agrochemicals (chemical-based fertilisers). Such fertilisers are known to pollute land and water along with other negative impacts on life and the environment. 

How can cow dung be used as compost?

Cow dung can also be used as compost. Compost is usually dead organic matter which is of good value to plants and soil because of its composition. 

The mineral content and other constituents of cow dung have already been discussed and thus it can be proposed that cow dung can make really good compost of exceptional utilitarian value. 

As per some studies, compost made from cow dung is an excellent source of phosphorus, potassium and nitrogen. Other advantages of compost from cow dung are: 

  • Stabilisation of manure
  • Reduction of odours
  • Better processing of manure
  • Killing of pathogens 

How can cow dung be used as fuel?

Cow manure can be processed to also be used as an energy resource. These are called biofuels because they are made from bio (life). 

Biofuels can be biogas, bio-oil and syngas. 

Biogas is the production of biofuel by the anaerobic digestion of cow manure. This anaerobic digestion creates mostly methane (up to 80 percent) which can be used to generate electricity or heat for various domestic and commercial purposes. 

Bio-oils are made from cow manure after the processes of pyrolysis and gasification. The acquisition of bio-oils from these thermochemical processes can be employed for the generation of electricity and heat. 

The environmental advantage of these biofuels is that they are not based on the petrochemical industry which employs the use of fossils. Since there is no fossil use, there is less chance for environmental problems such as global warming or pollution. 

Conclusion

It is concluded that cow dung is biodegradable because it contains natural ingredients. It is also concluded that cow dung is of good utilitarian value because of its composition. 

As a result, various utilitarian advantages and aspects of cow dung are seen which may include use as manure, use as a fertiliser, use for compost, use as a biofuel, and use as a fibre source. 

Frequently Asked Question: Is cow dung biodegradable?

Is cow dung harmful to human health?

Yes, cow dung contains many pathogens which may be harmful to humans. These pathogens may include Listeria and Cryptosporidium. 

Can fibres be produced from cow dung?

Yes, the fibre content of cow dung can be used to make fibre products and building materials. However, most of the work done in this aspect is at the experimental stage. 

References

  • Gupta, K. K., Aneja, K. R., & Rana, D. (2016). Current status of cow dung as a bioresource for sustainable development. Bioresources and Bioprocessing, 3(1), 1-11.
  • Abubakar, B. S. U. I., & Ismail, N. (2012). Anaerobic digestion of cow dung for biogas production. ARPN journal of engineering and applied sciences, 7(2), 169-172.
  • Raj, A., Jhariya, M. K., & Toppo, P. (2014). Cow dung for eco-friendly and sustainable productive farming. Environ Sci, 3(10), 201-202.
  • Long, C. M., Muenich, R. L., Kalcic, M. M., & Scavia, D. (2018). Use of manure nutrients from concentrated animal feeding operations. Journal of Great Lakes Research, 44(2), 245-252.
  • US EPA. Animal Feeding Operations – Uses of Manure. Retrieved from: https://www.epa.gov/npdes/animal-feeding-operations-uses-manure

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