Penn State Harrisburg graduate students in environmental pollution control Rizki Prasetyaningtyas and Saskia Putri have figured out a unique way to use bananas and oranges. They plan to use them to clean heavy metals from wastewater coming from textile mills. Both students are from Indonesia where much of the world’s textiles are produced, however, their pollution controls are quite lax. Currently activated carbon is used to remove heavy metals, but it’s expensive.
To test their theory, the two researchers cleaned the peels, dried them in a low-temperature oven for 48 hours, dried them in a furnace for another three hours, crushed them and sifted them through a sieve. When mixed with a solution containing chromium in normal concentrations, the peels worked very well to absorb and bind to the metal. Interestingly bananas worked better than oranges.
With the success of chromium removal, the two researchers have begun to use fruit peels to remove other chemicals in wastewater, including zinc and copper. Although the project is ongoing, initial testing has shown the peels to effective at absorbing zinc and copper from the wastewater.