The increasing of world population, industrialization and global consuming, existing market products existed in the along with diversification of raw materials, are responsible for an exponential increase of wastes. This scenario represents loss of resources and ultimately causes air, soils and water pollution. Therefore, proper waste management is currently one of the major challenges faced by modern societies.
Textile industries represents, in Portugal, almost 10% of total productive transforming sector and 19% of total employments in the sector composed by almost 7.000 companies. One of the main environmental problems of textile industries is the production of significant quantities of wastes from its different processing steps. According to the Portuguese Institute of Statistics (INE) these industries produce almost 500.000 tons of wastes each year, with the textile cotton waste (TCW) being the most expressive. It was estimated that 4.000 tons of TCW are produced each year in Portugal.
In this work an integrated TCW valorisation procedure was evaluated, firstly by its thermal and energetic valorisation with slow pyrolysis followed by the utilization of biochar by-product, in lead and chromium synthetic wastewater decontamination.
Pyrolysis experiments were conducted in a small scale rotating pyrolysis reactor with 0.1 m3 of total capacity. Results of pyrolysis experiments showed the formation of 0,241 m3 of biogas for each kilogram of TCW. Results also demonstrated that the biogas is mostly composed by hydrogen (22%), methane (14 %), carbon monoxide (20%) and carbon dioxide (12%), which represents a total high calorific value of 12.3 MJ/Nm3.
Regarding biochar, results of elemental analysis demonstrated a high percentage of carbon driving its use as low cost adsorbent. Adsorption experiments were conducted with lead and chromium synthetic wastewaters (25, 50 and 100 mg L−1) in batch vessels with controlled pH. It was evaluated the behaviour of adsorption capacity and removal rate of each metal during 120 minutes of contact time using 5, 10 and 50 g L−1 of adsorbent dosage. Results indicated high affinity of adsorbent with each tested metal with 78% of removal rate in chromium and 95% in lead experiments. This suggests that biochar from TCW pyrolysis may be appropriated to wastewaters treatment, with high contents of heavy metals and it can be an effective alternative to activated carbon.