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Agriculture researchers discover minced banana removes metals from water

Published on March 11th, 2011 | by Tina Casey


Toxic Metals in Your Water? No Problem, Have a Banana

March 11th, 2011 by  

researchers discover minced banana removes  metals from waterYes, 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.

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About the Author

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. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.

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  • Karen

    Hemp fibre (cannabis sativa, industrial hemp) is also a great natural filter. I was reading an article where it was used to clean up industrial wastes in landfill as well as waterways – the plant draws the muck out and leaves behind a clean environment, ripe for rehabilitation. If memory serves correctly, they were looking at using it to clean up the Chernobyl site.

  • Paul Scheideberg

    Great headline but totally uninformative as an article. After being minced exactly how are the banana peels used? How are they applied to the water, for how long, do they become hazardous waste after use. If they’re good for 11 application, how long is each duration and what processing, if any, takes place between application? What levels of pollution have been effectively treated and with what success? The people in Sao Paolo must have done some basic research to reach their conclusions. Why didn’t the article give at least some minimal facts about the process, results and applications they acheived? Waste of time if all we get is a catchy headline and little else.

  • Martin

    This must be a joka. Why dont you think one step longer? How environmentally friendly are the bananas? The problem with this kind of thinking is that you compare a banana with the chemicals. And of course the banana will be more friendly. But if you add the growing and shipping of the banana you have a totally different result.

    • Tina Casey

      Martin, let’s give these guys (the researchers) a little credit. They’re checking out new ideas, not recommending that this process is universally applicable.

      • chaindropz

        Cao and activated carbon treatment will most likely remain one of the best treatments for large volume. I must admit I have gone bananas over their treatment. It is very interesting.

  • John McMillan

    This is very intriguing but yes, i have no bananas.

    • Tina Casey

      Hahahahahahaha I can’t believe I didn’t use that line.

  • chaindropz

    Banana peels will rot. Can they be dried and used as a dried minced treatment for hiking or emergency use with unknown water Quality? How are they preserved? Will this be sold or do we have to peel and preserve our own banana peels?

    • There are already microbes that do the same job. They actually eat the toxins and the result is Co2 or other byproducts. The usefulness of these little guys has already been demonstrated in a variety of contaminated sites. They are also useful for oil spills. The reality is when we have too many options, it waylays us into untnenable technologies or bunny trails that waste time. As you know, time is also a limited resource, and if we want to save our planet from pollution we need to use the most effective technology we have.

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