Effective assessment of biopolymer-based multifunctional sorbents for the remediation of environmentally hazardous contaminants from aqueous solutions (2023)


The efficient management of environmental contaminants receives much attention from scientists owing to its harmful impacts on biodiversity, human and animal health, and the environment. One of the most pressing problems facing the world today is water pollution, which can have both a direct and an indirect influence on the well-being of plants and animals (Munawar et al., 2022a, b). The principal sources of ecological contamination are human activity and unmanaged development (Bilal et al., 2019a, b). These contaminants can be extremely harmful to both marine and terrestrial species, even in low amounts. Conventional approaches to environmental remediation have proven inadequate. Research is being conducted to develop innovative and highly efficient remediation technologies to transition towards a green environment (Bilal et al., 2019a, b). One of the expanding areas of application is the fabrication and manufacture of nanoparticles (NPs) using biopolymers as the sole substrate source.

Nanocomposites and nanomaterials (NMs) are commonly utilized to reduce the risk of environmental contamination, particularly in the treatment of wastewater (S. F. Ahmed et al., 2022; Munawar et al., 2022a, b). Despite the increasing use of synthetic polymers in pollution removal, the need for sustainable growth and ecological management encourages a “return to nature.” Biopolymers, including pectin, gelatin alginate, cellulose, natural gums, collagen, chitin, lignin, chitosan, dextran, cyclo-dextrins, agar, and others, have attracted attention for various ecological and biomedical applications due to their multifunctionality and abundance. These biopolymers display extraordinary properties, including large surface area, high efficiency, bioactivity, nontoxicity, elasticity, anti-microbial activity, and simplicity of synthesis (Kumar et al., 2020). Biopolymers such as cellulose, chitin, chitosan, and lignin have better selectivity and reactivity than other biopolymers (Khajavian et al., 2022). Additionally, effective methods of fabrication can be used to vary their adsorption qualities. Fruit and plant fragments have also been identified in recent studies as highly cost-effective sorbents for the removal of contaminants. Biopolymers can be employed as surface capping agents (Nieto-Argüello et al., 2022), composites (Prochon et al., 2022), immobilizers (Kehinde et al., 2022), support matrices (Preethi et al., 2017), and core–shell catalysts (Agorku et al., 2014). Several processes and technologies have been utilized to produce composites containing biopolymers for catalytic applications.

This paper provides a comprehensive overview of recent advances in the production of polysaccharide-containing biosorbents and their benefits for pollutant removal from wastewater. The primary objectives of this review are to provide insights into the essential characteristics of biopolymer-based materials, and to demonstrate their effectiveness in the treatment of wastewater compared to traditional methods. The paper will also highlight the significance of the logical design of biopolymer surfaces to achieve optimal adsorption capabilities and recyclability. The impact of biopolymers in terms of the reduction of solid waste in water treatment and the potential eco-compatibility of these materials will also be discussed. Overall, this literature review will provide a comprehensive overview of the current state of knowledge on biopolymers as sorbents in wastewater treatment, offering a valuable resource for further research and development in this field.

Section snippets

Wastewater and its sources

Clean water is a fundamental need for all organisms on Earth. The main sources of clean water are streams, seas, dams, canals, and rainfall. However, water supplies are being depleted because of the rapid rise in the global population and the fast growth of some industrial sectors (Azimi et al., 2017). Water pollution is caused especially by the activities of the paper, textiles, paint, electroplating, and plastic industries. Water contamination comes from a number of sources, as shown in Fig. 1

Persistent organic pollutants in wastewater

One of the most significant challenges facing the global community in the 21st century is the production of pharmaceutical pollutants (Honarmandrad et al., 2022). These compounds harm human and aquatic organisms in ecological systems. Pollutants that are employed in a variety of applications (and are therefore present in industrial, hospital, and domestic effluents) are gradually discharged into water supplies and can be detected in concentrations ranging from ng/L to g/L levels (Roberts and

Adverse effect of organic and inorganic contaminants

The growing worldwide pollution caused by organic micropollutants (OMPs) poses a severe hazard to environmental stability and human health. Environmental risk assessment (ERA) has shown that exposure to OMPs can have far-reaching negative effects on human and animal health, plant life, groundwater quality, and aquatic organisms. Severe chronic effects are brought about by the presence of OMPs in drinking water (Kidd et al., 2007; Santos et al., 2010), which can cause irreversible mutations in

Biopolymer-based sorbents for emerging pollutants

Life on Earth depends on water, and many industrial operations also require it. A great deal of wastewater, containing potential pollutants, is produced by industries such as paper manufacturing, textile manufacturing, farming, leather manufacturing, and others (Khan et al., 2021). The rapid acceleration of industrialization and urbanization, focused on the improvement of people's quality of life, has had a significant negative impact on the natural world (V. Gupta, 2009) as a result of the

Other natural sorbents

Natural biopolymers are biodegradable, have large surface areas, and offer easy preparation, wide availability, high sorption effectiveness, and low cost. Biopolymers such as peat, Rhizopus, yeast, and algae are suited for use as sustainable alternatives to difficult-to-prepare conventional sorbents (Khan et al., 2021). Biopolymers are being studied as sorbents for use in wastewater treatment. Coir pith has been shown to remove heavy metal cations from contaminated water with high efficiency

Lignin-based sorbents for pharmaceutical removal

Water is essential for life to exist, but many people throughout the world are affected by a deficiency of fresh, drinkable water (Vardhan et al., 2019). According to the World Health Organization (WHO), by 2030, around 3.9 billion people will be living in places with a lack of access to clean water (World Health Organization, 2015). Moreover, a WHO study on the burden of ecological mortality found that environmental risk factors are responsible for 2.97 million yearly fatalities and 25% of

Fate of biopolymers after use in pollutant removal

The fate of biopolymers after adsorption is a significant consideration in treatment processes. Deterioration of biopolymers involves various successive processes, including biodegradation, depolymerization, assimilation, and mineralization. After sorption, biopolymers are often discarded into the environment without additional treatment. These biopolymer-based biomaterials build up in soil or water and are degraded by microbial enzymes. On the surface of biopolymers, nitrogen and carbon

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In view of rising water demand and a lack of clean water in developing countries, it is essential to develop technologies for the removal of pollutants from wastewater. As a result of progress towards more sustainable methods, “green” materials of natural origin have been developed. One type of green asset that has largely replaced synthetic polymers and their negative consequences is biopolymers and their composites. Biopolymers are a promising alternative in a variety of applications due to

Future developments

Biopolymer composites have been shown to offer exceptional mechanical properties, biocompatibility, and biodegradability, making them ideal green composites not only for wastewater treatment, but also for a variety of other applications. As ecologically benign products, these materials serve a vital role in eliminating a range of pollutants from wastewater, making the creation of innovative multifunctional biopolymer composites an interesting research goal. Because the bulk of commercial

Author’s contributions

Shahid Nawaz: Conceptualization, Formal analysis and curation, Validation, Writing – original draft, Writing – review & editing; Conceptualization, Formal analysis and curation, Validation, Writing – original draft, Writing – review & editing; Muhammad Bilal; Conceptualization, Formal analysis and curation, Validation, Writing – original draft, Writing – review & editing; Sara Muslim; Methodology, Formal analysis and curation, Writing – review & editing; Tayyaba Nasreen; Methodology, Formal

Uncited references

Ali et al., 2009; Ali et al., 2020; Environment Protection, 2008

Declaration of competing interest

The authors declare that they have no known competing financial interests or personal relationships that could have appeared to influence the work reported in this paper.


The research leading to these results has received funding from the Norwegian Financial Mechanism 2014–2021 under the Project number 2020/37/K/ST8/03805.

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