Discovering the Key Benefits of Natural Polymers in Water Treatment


Many industries use polymers for water treatment. However, conventional synthetic polymers often originate from petroleum products or natural gas and can leave behind unwanted residues. Natural polymers give you a more environmentally responsible alternative, especially those produced through modification of polysaccharides. What are the key benefits of natural polymers in water treatment? I will go over this with you in more detail and show how they compare to synthetic polymers.

This guide to natural polymers covers their origin, specific benefits, and most popular kinds, showing you how they work within water & wastewater treatment processes. You will also see how researchers are working on these exciting new polymers for current and future environmental remediation projects in domestic and industrial wastewater treatment and more. So let’s look at the key benefits of natural polymers in water treatment.

Table of Contents:

Natural Polymers Versus Synthetic Polymers for Industrial Applications

Synthetic polymers often originate from petrochemicals or natural gas, making them a non-renewable resource with a negative impact on the environment. But they’re widely used in industrial applications as flocculants to remove suspended solids during wastewater treatment and are even used in other industrial sectors, like food processing, pharmaceuticals, mining, and the oil and gas industry.

On the other hand, natural polymers usually come from plants or animal sources. This makes them inherently more environmentally friendly than synthetic polymer options, which is a key consideration for engineers working in industrial applications.

According to the Encyclopedia Britannica,  polymers are naturally found within living organisms. Cellulose and starch, as well as proteins and nucleic acids, are all examples of natural polymer types. Zeoturb, a bio organic flocculant is derived from a naturally occurring polymer, this one found in marine life. 

These polymers give engineers options that minimize environmental damage and support sustainability. Biopolymers and bioplastics, specifically, have generated a great deal of recent attention and interest because they provide an environmentally responsible alternative.

The Advantages and Drawbacks of Synthetic Polymers

Synthetic polymers work well to assist in the separation of solids from liquids during water and wastewater treatment. You can apply them directly to your wastewater treatment process to increase the efficiency of the procedure or combine them with other treatment approaches, such as dissolved air flotation and electrocoagulation, to help speed up flocculation and optimize treatment. 

This gives facility managers and water treatment consultants a powerful approach to support wastewater treatment at scale. Reducing the costs of sludge management and the coagulation process itself, allowing treatment plants to discharge or reuse clean water in other industrial operations.

Although synthetic polymers work to achieve those treatment goals, they do come with several downsides.

One significant issue is toxicity. In order for a water or wastewater treatment operation to safely and responsibly dispose of the separated sludge at its facility, it needs to meet strict environmental guidelines. This means the facility needs to carefully manage the composition of the sludge it produces. Synthetic polymer flocculants may increase the sludge toxicity, which will challenge its safe disposal and increase operational costs, which could hinder the plant operations.

Another critical problem is cost. They can be pretty expensive, especially for smaller operations looking for an overall cost-effective treatment option. 

How Are Natural Polymers a More Sustainable Choice?

The use of natural polymers in water treatment provides more than a benefit in terms of minimizing toxicity concerns and offering an environmentally-friendly option. Natural water treatment polymers come with another key benefit: sustainable material sourcing, often through readily-renewable materials. It also avoids using chemicals that could end up contaminating the environment.

In a review of applications, from Journal of Petroleum Science and Engineering in 2018, scientists noted, “In oil and gas industry operations, scale can develop within oil production equipment, both above and below ground, that can lead to ‘formation damage, loss in production, pressure reductions, and premature failure of down hole equipment’. ” To remediate these problems, a great deal of research is going into environmentally friendly polymer and biocide applications.

Biopolymers such as “guar gum, xanthan gum, starch, cellulose derivatives, poly amino acids, and chitin” are being considered for large-scale use, as well as “sodium alginate, sodium carboxymethyl cellulose, and polyaspartic acid” (Shunxiang et al.). The potential applications extend beyond industrial wastewater, though. These same materials are now being applied to biomedicine and drug delivery among other applications (Baranwal et al.).

A Deep Dive Into Zeoturb: The Top Natural Water Treatment Polymer 

One of the most widely used natural polymers in the wastewater treatment process is Zeoturb, derived from a natural cationic flocculant biopolymer originating from marine life. This specific natural polymer originates from renewable marine life. This gives us a readily-renewable resource from sustainable material sources for environmental applications.

Why Is Zeoturb Such a Powerful Treatment Agent?

A great deal of current scientific and market interest has developed around this unique, sustainable material and there’s also ongoing research about the many key benefits of natural polymers in water treatment processes. For example, natural polymers like Zeoturb are particularly good at assisting in the removal of organic material and trace metals. \

As an environmental consultant, facility manager, or sustainability engineer you want this benefit because industrial and civil water & wastewater treatment streams often contain organic matter from waste vegetation or animal sources.

In fact, these chemical specific properties enable it to enhance particle coagulation and neutralize suspended matter. It is also being evaluated as a method for remediating plastic pollution, as an alternative to throwing unwanted plastics into landfill sites.

One key attribute of this material is its positively-charged molecular chains. When applied to wastewater containing a high amount of organic compounds and material, the opposite charge causes these solids to be drawn to this natural polymer and clump together. This forms the familiar floc, which settles out of suspension more quickly and efficiently than without treatment. 

The natural polymer structure also helps accelerate treatment because the long-chained structure can effectively wrap around solids that are suspended in water and wastewater, encapsulating and bonding to them in order to form well defined flocs. Once bound and enveloped by the polymer structure, these particles lose their charge and flocculate with each other into larger clumps.  

What Kinds of Natural Polymers Are Best for Water Treatment Processes?

Natural polymers are increasingly being used in water treatment processes due to their biodegradability, low toxicity, and effectiveness. Here are some of the best natural polymers for water treatment:

  1. Zeoturb: Derived as a byproduct of marine life, Zeoturb is an effective sustainable bio organic polymer product used in coagulation and flocculation processes. It can reduce/remove trace heavy metals, dyes, algae, suspended solids and organic pollutants.

  2. Starch-Based Polymers: Starch can be modified to create effective flocculants. These polymers are biodegradable and can be sourced from various plants, making them sustainable.

  3. Alginate: Extracted from specific seaweed strains, alginate has excellent gel-forming properties. It is used in water treatment for its ability to reduce trace heavy metals and other contaminants.

  4. Guar Gum: Sourced from guar beans, guar gum is used as a flocculant due to its high viscosity and ability to form gels. It is effective in removing turbidity and other suspended particles and improves sludge dewatering.

  5. Xanthan Gum: Produced by the fermentation of glucose or sucrose by the Xanthomonas campestris bacterium, xanthan gum is used as a thickening agent and flocculant. It helps in the removal of suspended solids and also improves sludge dewatering.

  6. Cellulose Derivatives: Modified cellulose, such as carboxymethyl cellulose (CMC) and hydroxyethyl cellulose (HEC), are used for their ability to bind with contaminants and aid in their removal from water.

  7. Pectin: Sustainably found in the cell walls of fruits, pectin is effective in coagulating and flocculating contaminants, making it useful in water purification processes.

These natural polymers are selected based on their availability, cost-effectiveness, and specific properties that make them suitable for different water treatment applications.

The organic polymers indicated improve water quality and remove solids in water and wastewater treatment processes. 

Zeoturb Table: Benefits and Modifications 

The following Zeoturb biopolymer table highlights some popular variations alongside key benefits of these natural polymers in water treatment.

To make the information easy to navigate, we have broken down each chemical application into four major categories: heavy metals, minerals, organic compounds, and miscellaneous pollutants, along with optimization techniques.

It’s important to remember that using natural biopolymer flocculation is just one possible treatment strategy and is only used to assist with contaminant removal.

These biopolymers work in synergy to accelerate and support a full wastewater treatment plan. To obtain optimal removal, you should consult a treatment company, conduct appropriate testing, and employ additional process optimization wastewater treatment strategies.

Pollutants RemovedChemical Modification or EnhancementTreatment Application or Benefit
Cadmium (Cd (II))High Degree of SubstitutionTreatment of wastewater produced by mining and heavy industry.
Lead (Pb (II)), copper (Cu(II)), and zinc (Zn(II))Adding carboxymethyl groups.Treats heavy metal pollution found in mining and heavy industrial treatment process waters.
Uranium (U)Hydroxylated side chain additions.Treatment of heavy metal pollution found in nuclear energy treatment process waters and those associated with mineral extraction projects.
Mercury (Hg (II))Hydroxylated side chain additions.Treatment of heavy metal contamination from gold mining operations and dental treatment facilities, although some dental facilities prefer an amalgamation technique over mercury for dental fillings, and dentists have been encouraged to use an alternative (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency).
Nitrates and phosphatesZeoturb without enhancementReduces excess fertilizer in agricultural treatment processes. Reduces nitrogen load in municipal wastewater from sewage, human waste.
DyesAdd ethylenamine (EA) side chains Helps reduce color contamination in treatment plant intake water. Reduces the need for excess chlorine dosing.
PFAS (‘Forever Chemicals’), micro and nano-plasticsZeoturb without enhancementMitigates contamination from per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and supports plastic pollution cleanup efforts in waterways, treatment processes, soil, and landfill sites.


FAQs about Key Benefits of Natural Polymers in Water Treatment

Why are polymers important in water treatment?

Polymers help separate out solids from the liquid component of industrial and domestic wastewater, which makes treatment much easier, safer, more sustainable and cost-effective.  It helps bring those tiny solids, often invisible to the naked eye, together into larger clumps, or flocs,  through a chemical reaction that alters the charge. 

To do this most effectively, water treatment specialists can combine polymer flocculants alongside a coagulant that brings those flocs together into a denser mass of sludge as required.

What are the benefits of natural polymers?

The key benefit is less environmental impact – natural polymers come from renewable, sustainable material sources like plant life or animal waste products (Jensen). They don’t come from oil or gas products like conventional synthetic polymers. 

So they don’t have the environmental baggage of petrochemicals. Another important thing to consider, although synthetic polymers do break down eventually in the soil or in water treatment facilities,  it takes far longer than it takes for their more natural counterparts. Additionally, potential hazardous residues from synthetic polymers can cause environmental harm.

Why are natural polymers better than synthetic polymers?

The key difference is sustainability (Hagemann) because they decompose or degrade far more quickly. The decomposition products are much less hazardous for water quality and healthier for organisms that could come in contact with them. For facility operators or plant managers using natural water treatment polymers, this may also reduce toxicity levels. Those toxicity levels are what regulators use when evaluating wastewater discharge permit limits – making it easier to meet treatment process limits, improve overall success, and reduce regulatory risks for fines.

What is the advantage of using polymers made from natural foods?

Naturally occurring polymers originate from animal sources or plant sources and include lignin, certain polysaccharides, tannins and alginates. So you can often avoid generating them with an industrial process and just source them from companies looking for cost-effective disposal of what might otherwise be viewed as industrial waste. 

What makes using natural polymer applications so innovative for industrial manufacturers, sustainability professionals, consulting engineers and environmental experts, it reduces waste at the same time that it improves a variety of other treatment process operations. That waste-reducing attribute also has big implications for managing landfills – something that most people just don’t consider (Malik). This kind of bioremediation offers a huge advantage to everyone.


Many people are looking to move away from polymers. In part, they are influenced by fear mongering by the mainstream media and film industries that have generated a public narrative filled with disaster, harmful and hurtful lies, about these versatile chemicals, giving individuals, business people, and even policymakers a flawed perspective.

Incorporating natural polymers into your water treatment processes not only enhances efficiency but also significantly reduces environmental impact. Unlike conventional synthetic polymers derived from petroleum products, natural polymers offer a sustainable and eco-friendly alternative. They are biodegradable, lower in toxicity, and often sourced from renewable materials, making them ideal for various industrial applications.

Genesis Water Technologies is at the forefront of utilizing these innovative natural polymers to revolutionize water and wastewater treatment. Our expertise in sustainable solutions ensures that your operations are both effective and environmentally responsible.

Contact the water treatment specialists at Genesis Water Technologies today at +1 877 267 3699 or via email at to learn more about how natural polymers like Zeoturb liquid bio-organic flocculant can transform your water or wastewater treatment process and contribute to a more sustainable future. 

Together, let’s pave the way for a cleaner water and a healthier environment.