Glyphosate, one of the most commonly used herbicides worldwide, poses significant environmental and health concerns. To address this issue, researchers at São Paulo State University (UNESP) in Brazil have developed a novel technique for removing glyphosate from water using sugarcane bagasse. This waste material from the sugar and ethanol industry offers a sustainable solution to mitigate the negative impact of glyphosate.

Inspired by the principles of the circular economy, the technique harnesses the adsorption capabilities of sugarcane bagasse fibers. These fibers, when chemically functionalized, act as an effective adsorbent material for glyphosate. By adhering to the surface of the sugarcane bagasse fibers, glyphosate contaminants can be easily removed through filtration, decantation, or centrifugation. This innovative approach demonstrates the potential of utilizing waste materials as valuable resources in environmental remediation.

The Hazards of Glyphosate

Glyphosate is widely used in agriculture to control the growth of unwanted plants, including weeds, invasive species, and agricultural pests. However, scientific studies have raised concerns about the potential health risks associated with glyphosate exposure. Some studies suggest a possible link between glyphosate and cancer. As a result, several countries have implemented restrictions or bans on the use of glyphosate-containing products.

In Brazil, the annual use of glyphosate-containing products remains high, with an average of 173,150.75 metric tons. A significant portion of these products finds its way into rivers, wells, and other aquatic environments through runoff. To tackle this problem, scientists at UNESP’s School of Sciences and Technology (FCT) in President Prudente embarked on research led by postdoctoral fellow Guilherme Dognani and Professor Aldo Eloizo Job.

The Procedure

The researchers devised a procedure that involved isolating cellulose fibers from sugarcane bagasse by separating them from hemicellulose and lignin. These cellulose fibers were then chemically functionalized by introducing quaternary ammonia groups onto their surface, giving them a positive charge. The resulting cationic cellulose microfibers exhibited a strong affinity for glyphosate, enabling efficient removal from water.

Optimizing the Process

One crucial aspect of the study focused on the variation of pH. The researchers discovered that both the adsorbent material (cellulose microfibers) and glyphosate displayed different molecular configurations at different pH levels. Through comprehensive experimentation, they determined that pH 14 provided the most favorable conditions for interaction between the adsorbent material and glyphosate, resulting in optimal removal efficiency.

Evaluation of Adsorption Capacity

The researchers evaluated the adsorption capacity of the cellulose microfibers by preparing fractions of glyphosate solutions with varying pH levels (2, 6, 10, and 14). Each fraction was mixed with identical amounts of functionalized cellulose microfibers and agitated for 24 hours. After the reaction, the samples were analyzed using visible light spectrophotometry. The removal efficiency was calculated by comparing the initial and final glyphosate levels, while the adsorption capacity was determined based on the pH-dependent performance of the cellulose microfibers.

A Sustainable and Effective Solution

The utilization of sugarcane bagasse as an adsorbent material for glyphosate removal offers a sustainable and effective solution to the global problem of water contamination. By repurposing waste materials, the technique aligns with the principles of the circular economy, promoting resource efficiency and reducing environmental impact. Moreover, the optimized procedure allows for efficient removal of glyphosate, mitigating the potential health hazards associated with its presence in water sources.

The development of a strategy for removing glyphosate using sugarcane bagasse represents a significant advancement in water remediation techniques. The innovative approach, inspired by the circular economy, demonstrates the value of waste materials in environmental sustainability. With further research and implementation, this technique could contribute to the reduction of glyphosate contamination, ensuring healthier ecosystems and safer water sources for present and future generations.


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