Abstract Microbial inhibition and stripping of volatile compounds are two common problems encountered in the biotreatment of contaminated wastewaters. Both can be addressed by the addition of a hydrophobic auxiliary phase that can absorb and subsequently re-release the substrates, lowering their initial aqueous concentrations. Such systems have been described as Two Phase Partitioning Bioreactors (TPPBs). In the current work the performances of a solid–liquid TPPB, a liquid–liquid TPPB and a single phase reactor for the simultaneous degradation of butyl acetate (the volatile component) and phenol (the toxic component) have been compared. The auxiliary phase used in the solid–liquid TPPB was a 50:50 polymer mixture of styrene–butadiene rubber and Hytrel® 8206, with high affinities for butyl acetate and phenol, respectively. The liquid–liquid TPPB employed silicone oil which has fixed physical properties, and had no capacity to absorb the toxic contaminant (phenol). Butyl acetate degradation was enhanced in both TPPBs relative to the single phase, arising from its sequestration into the auxiliary phase, thereby reducing volatilization losses. The solid–liquid TPPB additionally showed a substantial increase in the phenol degradation rate, relative to the silicone oil system, demonstrating the superiority and versatility of polymer based systems.