A Sustainable Method to Reduce Vancomycin Concentrations in Water using Timber Waste

Benjamin Delmond, Svetlana Tretsiakova-McNally, B Solan, Rodney McDermott, Alexandre Audoin

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Emerging contaminants are becoming a significant challenge for modern society. Antibiotic resistance is notably among the most urgent public health concerns, and it is well recognised that the problem often originates from wastewater treatment facilities. In developed countries, where affordable and specified, activated carbon can be used as an efficient adsorbent of antibiotic residues present in wastewaters. However, this method is associated with high production and reactivation costs and has a significant carbon footprint. Research at Ulster University proposes a more sustainable and cost-effective solution to this problem. The technique involves the application of modified sawdust waste to treated effluent, reducing tertiary antibiotic contamination. The sawdust used in the current study was from two sources: ash or a mixture of tree species. These materials, in unmodified and modified forms, were applied as the adsorbents in model systems containing vancomycin (antibiotic) dissolved in distilled water at concentrations ranging between 30 and 150 mg/L. It was found that such adsorbents are highly efficient at removing vancomycin from contaminated waters. Antibiotic removal levels reached 63.0% (σ = 2.3%) for the modified mixed sawdust and 56.6% (σ = 5.1%) for the modified ash sawdust. Post-treatment, the sawdust can undergo a thermal conversion for energy production. The preliminary findings of this scoping work indicate the feasibility of converting sawdust waste into a novel means for wastewater treatment systems capable of dealing with antibiotic pollutants. The simplicity of the method offers many developing and developed economies, a sustainable means of managing this dangerous emerging problem.

Original languageEnglish
Article number81
Pages (from-to)1-17
Number of pages17
JournalWater, Air, & Soil Pollution
Issue number2
Early online date24 Jan 2023
Publication statusPublished online - 24 Jan 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors are very grateful for the technical support provided by Mrs. Sarah Stewart (Ulster University) who collected data for plotting isotherms and Oluwashina Akinsamni (Ulster University) who assisted with the grinding of the sawdust.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023, The Author(s).


  • antibiotic resistance
  • lignocellulosic materials
  • sustainable wastewater treatment
  • vancomycin
  • environmental protection
  • sawdust
  • Sustainable wastewater treatment
  • Antibiotic resistance
  • Vancomycin
  • Lignocellulosic materials
  • Sawdust
  • Environmental protection


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