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Science of The Total Environment
Volume 822, 2022, 153555

Recovery, regeneration and sustainable management of spent adsorbents from wastewater treatment streams: A review

Arun V. Baskara, Nanthi Bolanb,c, Son A. Hoanga,d, Prasanthi Sooriyakumara

The Global Innovative Centre for Advanced Nanomaterials, College of Engineering, Science and Environment, University of Newcastle, Callaghan, NSW 2308, Australia.


Adsorption is the most widely adopted, effective, and reliable treatment process for the removal of inorganic and organic contaminants from wastewater. One of the major issues with the adsorption-treatment process for the removal of contaminants from wastewater streams is the recovery and sustainable management of spent adsorbents. This review focuses on the effectiveness of emerging adsorbents and how the spent adsorbents could be recovered, regenerated, and further managed through reuse or safe disposal. The critical analysis of both conventional and emerging adsorbents on organic and inorganic contaminants in wastewater systems are evaluated. The various recovery and regeneration techniques of spent adsorbents including magnetic separation, filtration, thermal desorption and decomposition, chemical desorption, supercritical fluid desorption, advanced oxidation process and microbial assisted adsorbent regeneration are discussed in detail. The current challenges for the recovery and regeneration of adsorbents and the methodologies used for solving those problems are covered. The spent adsorbents are managed through regeneration for reuse (such as soil amendment, capacitor, catalyst/catalyst support) or safe disposal involving incineration and landfilling. Sustainable management of spent adsorbents, including processes involved in the recovery and regeneration of adsorbents for reuse, is examined in the context of resource recovery and circular economy. Finally, the review ends with the current drawbacks in the recovery and management of the spent adsorbents and the future directions for the economic and environmental feasibility of the system for industrial-scale application.

Keywords: Adsorbents, Wastewater treatment, Recovery and regeneration, Disposal, Reuse.

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