Reusing activated carbon for the removal of organic micropollutants

Nienke Koeman, Luc Palmen MSc MTD

  • Start date
    01 Aug 2018
  • End date
    31 Mar 2021
  • Principal
    TKI Watertechnologie
  • collaborating partners
    KWR, Dunea, Aqua Minerals, RHDHV, Waterschap Aa en Maas, LTO, Hoogheemraadschap van Rijnland

The removal of organic micropollutants (OMPs) from (waste) water is becoming more and more important. Pharmaceutical residues are increasingly being removed from domestic wastewater, be it in the wastewater treatment plant or elsewhere. Greenhouse horticulture companies are also obligated to substantially remove used plant protection products from their wastewater.


A variety of technologies can be applied to remove OMPs from water, and fresh (unused) activated carbon has been shown to be a suitable option. However, such fresh activated carbon made from coal is not a sustainable source. This project is therefore researching whether activated carbon that has already been used in drinking water production might be suitable for the removal of micropollutants from municipal and horticultural wastewater.


The raw material is being analysed for its composition, variability and availability. Laboratory tests will analyse the adsorption capacity of the carbon already used in Dunea’s drinking water production. The possible means of the carbon’s application in the treatment of wastewater will also be examined. Moreover, an LCA study will done to determine the environmental impact of reused (Dunea) carbon compared to fresh carbon (from coal). A technical and logistical feasibility analysis and an economic assessment are also part of the project.


This project will produce insight into whether reused carbon from drinking water production processes is suitable for the removal of OMPs from wastewater.

Specifically, it will provide:

  • Insight into the available adsorptive capacity of Dunea’s reused pulverised carbon for OMPs in wastewater.
  • A comparison of the adsorption capacity, application means and environmental impact of reused carbon and fresh carbon.
  • Information on the reused carbon’s suitability (based on Dunea’s carbon) for the removal of (residues of) pharmaceuticals and plant protection products.