No. Generally, with biology or microorganisms, chemical substances can be biodegraded. In simple terms, a compost pile is a fantastic illustration of bio-degradation, and it is easy for most people to see and comprehend. Innate availability of oxygen, water, and heat will degrade every food debris, grass clippings, and other organic material.
However, because salt is an inorganic compound that lacks carbon, it cannot biodegrade. Salt needs to have carbon content and be an organic compound to deteriorate.
Why is salt not biodegradable?
Biodegradable, by definition, refers to something that bacteria and other biological agents can break down. However, remember that biodegradability does not equate to environmental friendliness.
Since piles of rocks lack the necessary amount of carbon to be sustainable and instead require an organic molecule, you will never witness piles of rocks decomposing. Hence, as mentioned earlier, since salt is an inorganic substance and does not contain carbon, it cannot biodegrade.
Different types of salt
Here are a few of the most widely found salts in the world.
1. Pink Himalayan Salt
It is a salt with a vivid pink hue that is found in Pakistan’s Punjab province, primarily from the Khewra salt mine. Due to the presence of 84 natural minerals and a large amount of iron oxide, Himalayan salt is pink in the shade.
2. Sea Salt
Sea salt is obtained directly from the seawaters that have evaporated. It contains thick, delicate flakes that result from boiling saltwater until the salt crystallizes.
3. Kosher Salt
Kosher salt is a type of salt that has huge, coarse crystals, and it does, however, swiftly dissipate in the water. This salt is taken from the ground or the sea and is not as iodized as table salt.
4. Flake Salt
The evaporated seawaters are used to make flake salt. Flake salt is exceptionally light and slender and has a sparkly flavor and a low mineral concentration.
5. Fleur De Sel
The French word fleur de sel means grey salt. However, since it is gathered from shallow evaporation ponds, it is also known as Celtic sea salt. This variant has a lovely, somewhat damp texture that resembles wet sand.
6. Smoked Salt
The term “smoked salt” refers to a salt that has been smoked in bark-free woods. Any salt that contains huge grains can be used to make it.
7. Table Salt
It is taken from the sea and the soil. Table salt is the most used salt, and it does not cluster because of the presence of iodine and anti-caking ingredients.
Does salt break down naturally?
Biodegradable substances have bonds (often carbon, but occasionally alternative bonds) which can be permanently degraded into tiny chunks or molecules by biological creatures.
In light of this, salt is a substance made up of sodium and chlorine in the same amounts. Because it lacks carbon and is non-biodegradable, salt cannot break down naturally.
In fact, no physical method, including distillation or filtering, can separate salt into its two components. However, only a chemical can break down salt and other substances into constituent parts.
Also, heat can break down many substances into their constituent parts. Compounds typically have quite different characteristics from the materials from which they were generated.
Since sodium could never be exposed to either air or water, it is a very reactive soft metal. Consequently, chlorine gas is lethal.
Since sodium chloride (NaCl) is an ionic solid, it combines with water to generate Na+ and Cl- ions.
However, no ion is degraded and can only be present in a new configuration. When the water is dried off, the ionic solid will again reappear. Even if you find a biological agent to “degrade” it, you will find nothing but the same remains, Na+ and Cl-.
How to break down salt?
Some compounds are so stable that finding substances that will split them up is challenging. But experts can employ electrical fields and currents, which are much more potent than individual compounds.
Electrolysis is a combination of the prefix: electro (electrons/electricity) and the suffix: lysis (break apart). Electricity can be used to disassemble materials into pure elements or other compounds.
Using electrolysis, NaCl, or table salt, can be separated into its sodium and chlorine components. This process is crucial for the creation of sodium.
To get sodium through electrolysis, you must first dissolve some sodium chloride at temperatures beyond its melting point of 1,474°F (801°C). Then, drop two inerts (non-reacting) electrodes into the dissolved salt.
To allow the Na+ and Cl- ions to travel freely between electrodes, sodium chloride should be molten. (In pure sodium chloride, the particles are frozen solid). Finally, a direct electric current (DC) should be run through the melted salt.
The negative electrode (the cathode) attracts Na+ ions, whereas the positive electrode (the anode) attracts Cl-ions. This results in chemical processes where,
- Positive sodium ions seize electrons at the cathode. Here, they are pumped in.
- The electrons are pulled off from the chloride ions at the anode. Here, they are pushed out.
The chlorine atoms unite right away to form the diatomic molecule Cl2. As a result, common salt gets reduced/broken down to its component parts by electricity.
Is salt toxic?
Sodium and chlorine combine to form the crystalline mineral known as salt (NaCl). These two components are necessary for life, and individuals cannot survive without them since they play a vital role in many essential biological processes.
However, if the components of salt are so crucial to human health, why does salt hold such a negative reputation? Well, everything has a double facet. When consumed/available in excess, salt can adversely impact the environment and human health. Here’s how.
For environmental impact
- The amount of salt in surface waterways and drinking water supplies increases tremendously through road salting, mine drainage, sewage, drilling brine, and agricultural runoff, particularly fertilizer runoff.
- Salt reduces the freezing point of water, preventing the formation of ice. Hence, it is used as road salt. However, road salts in excess can destroy wildlife, kill or threaten humans, and exacerbate soil erosion.
- You need Just one tablespoon of salt to permanently contaminate 5 liters of water. There is no straightforward way to eliminate chloride once it is in the water. This denotes how freshwater/groundwater can be contaminated.
- If used in large quantities, rock salt is extremely harmful to aquatic life and ecosystems and affects local wildlife and flora.
- Exposure can cause stunted growth, large seed burdens, twig and stem die-back, leaf burn, and early leaf drop for plants that are susceptible to salt.
- If the soil’s salinity level is too high, moisture/water may return to the soil through plant roots. This causes the plant to become dehydrated and leads to plant mortality.
- Salt stress limits physiological functions, particularly photosynthesis. It reduces plant growth and output. When under salt stress, intracellular sodium ions build up and change the K: Na balance. This impacts photosynthesis’s bioenergetic activities.
- Salinity increases in water can have catastrophic effects on aquatic ecosystems and species.
Besides controlling the water content of and around your cells, feeding and removing nutrients from your cells, promoting brain function, promoting adrenal health, and maintaining and controlling blood pressure, excess salt can also cause negative impacts.
- A high-salt diet can elevate blood pressure, increasing your threat of coronary disease and stroke.
- Even a small quantity of salt intake can be harmful if not prescribed. It can result in nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, confusion, and in extreme cases, death (via sodium toxicosis).
Wrapping It Up
One of the most prevalent minerals found in nature is sodium chloride (NaCl), AKA salt. Many plants and animals use salt as a source of nutrition. However, salt is not biodegradable, and chemical processes can only break it down. In a nutshell, if consumed excessively, salt can negatively impact health and the environment more than it benefits the same.