Yes, we all know that thing about getting high from banana peels was a 1960′s hoax, but this is the real deal. A team of researchers has found that minced banana peels can clean pollution from river water, such as lead and copper. Not only that, but they can do it more quickly and efficiently than conventional chemical water treatments. Okay, so you’d probably need a ton of bananas to clean up a big site, but the discovery does have some implications for small scale uses, especially where budgets are tight.
The Mighty Banana Water Pollution Cure
The researchers, who were funded by the Sao Paulo Research Foundation, were looking for an inexpensive, non-toxic means of treating metals in wastewater. Silica is one material with a lot of promise because of its efficiency as a metal collector, but in order to function it has to be modded out with expensive toxic chemicals. In contrast, banana peels are efficient metal collectors in their natural state. The researchers also found that the same batch of minced peels can function effectively up to eleven times, without losing its ability to bind to metals.
Many Roads to Greener Water Treatments
Coconut fibers and peanut shells have also been identified as natural metal collectors with a lot of potential. It’s all part of the green chemistry movement, which seeks to replace conventional chemicals with safer, more sustainable ones. Some other examples are vitamin b12 and potassium lactate, a milk derivative. These are being developed as a means of removing volatile organic compounds from soil.
Greener Chemicals, Greener Processes
Another aspect of the green chemistry movement is the development of more sustainable water treatment equipment, like the new generation of nanoengineered ceramic water filters. New processes like ultraviolet light and ultrasound will also come into play, though ideally the energy needed to power this equipment would have to come from a sustainable source.
Image: Bananas by toddalert on flickr.com.
Tina Casey specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. You can also follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.