Chemical pollution of the environment has become a major source of concern. Studies on degradation of organic compounds have shown that some microorganisms are extremely versatile at catabolizing recalcitrant molecules. By harnessing this catabolic potential, it is possible to bioremediate some chemically contaminated environmental systems. Composting matrices and composts are rich sources of xenobiotic-degrading microorganisms including bacteria, actinomycetes and lignolytic fungi, which can degrade pollutants to innocuous compounds such as carbon dioxide and water. These microorganisms can also biotransform pollutants into less toxic substances and/or lock up pollutants within the organic matrix, thereby reducing pollutant bioavailability. The success or failure of a composting/compost remediation strategy depends however on a number of factors, the most important of which are pollutant bioavailability and biodegradability. This review discusses the interactions of pollutants with soils; look critically at the clean up of soils contaminated with a variety of pollutants using various composting strategies and assess the feasibility of using composting technologies to bioremediate contaminated soil. (C) 2001 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.