Banana peels effective tool in tackling Acid mine drainage – MUT study finds

Press release statement

Submitted by: The Department of Marketing and Communications

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15 June 2022

Banana peels effective tool in tackling Acid mine drainage – MUT study finds


According to the 2018 National Water and Sanitation Master Plan, South Africa will face a water supply deficit of 17% by 2030. This not only means that the country is running out of water, but it also points to a greater need for the country to intensify its water recycling efforts, especially in sectors such as mining, which are notorious for large amounts of water, which becomes a large quantity of wastewater.

Academics from Mangosuthu University of Technology (MUT) have discovered an unlikely key ingredient for the treatment of the highly toxic Acid mine drainage (AMD) into usable water. A study co-authored by MUT academics found banana peels to be a cheap and efficient bio-sorbent for the removal of copper and lead from AMD.

The study, titled: Bio-sorption of a bi-solute system of copper and lead ions onto banana peels: characterization and optimization, was conducted by Professor Babatunde Bakare, Acting Dean of the Faculty of Engineering at MUT, Professor Paul Musonge, Research Professor in the Faculty of Engineering at MUT, and Durban University of Technology’s Dr Felicia O. Afolabi. It was published in the Journal of Environmental Health Science and Engineering.

“AMD is highly toxic water with low pH and increased amounts of heavy metals and salts. AMD emanates from abandoned and ownerless mines or improper or failed treatment methods. It contains heavy metals such as arsenic, cadmium, lead, manganese, mercury, zinc, chromium, and copper, which are hazardous to humans, plants, and animals,” the study explains.

The study focuses on the mining industry because mining “generates high volumes of wastewater which greatly affect the environment”, with a high treatment cost. The use of bio-sorbents, which are absorbents from natural and agricultural waste, is not only cheap, but is good for the environment.

“There are many treatment methods that can be used to achieve better effluent quality such as ion exchange, osmosis, oxidation and reduction, flocculation and coagulation, complexation, solvent extraction, membrane separation, adsorption,” explains the study. “All these methods except adsorption require high-cost maintenance and level of expertise.”

The findings of this study are key to South Africa’s quest for a cheaper alternative to treat AMD. Using banana peels, which are agricultural waste, opens the door to the possibility of recycling large quantities of water at a time when the country is facing an impending water crisis. That the study uses banana peels collected from the local market also adds to the efficient use of resources.

The study is part of a series of studies from MUT researchers and academics in the area of Water and Wastewater Treatment Processes.

Last year (2021), Professor Bakare was awarded a National Research Foundation (NRF) Grant under the Competitive Programme to support Y-rated researchers to fund his research project, titled Application of Carbon NanO-Tube Technology in Emerging Contaminants Removal from Urban Wastewater, for the year 2022 to 2024. This project supports the Water supply, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) objective as outlined in the South Africa National Water Resources Strategy 2. This strategy encompasses all aspects of managing water for an equitable and sustainable future.