The effectiveness of spent coffee grounds and its biochar on the amelioration of heavy metals-contaminated water and soil using chemical and biological assessments

J Environ Manage. 2014 Dec 15:146:124-130. doi: 10.1016/j.jenvman.2014.07.001. Epub 2014 Aug 28.


Spent coffee grounds (SCG) and charred spent coffee grounds (SCG-char) have been widely used to adsorb or to amend heavy metals that contaminate water or soil and their success is usually assessed by chemical analysis. In this work, the effects of SCG and SCG-char on metal-contaminated water and soil were evaluated using chemical and biological assessments; a phytotoxicity test using bok choy (Brassica campestris L. ssp. chinensis Jusl.) was conducted for the biological assessment. When SCG and SCG-char were applied to acid mine drainage, the heavy metal concentrations were decreased and the pH was increased. However, for SCG, the phytotoxicity increased because a massive amount of dissolved organic carbon was released from SCG. In contrast, SCG-char did not exhibit this phenomenon because any easily released organic matter was removed during pyrolysis. While the bioavailable heavy metal content decreased in soils treated with SCG or SCG-char, the phytotoxicity only rose after SCG treatment. According to our statistical methodology, bioavailable Pb, Cu and As, as well as the electrical conductivity representing an increase in organic content, affected the phytotoxicity of soil. Therefore, applying SCG during environment remediation requires careful biological assessments and evaluations of the efficiency of this remediation technology.

Keywords: Acid mine drainage; Biochar; Phytotoxicity; Remediation evaluation; Trace elements.

MeSH terms

  • Adsorption
  • Charcoal / chemistry
  • Coffee / chemistry*
  • Environmental Restoration and Remediation
  • Humans
  • Metals, Heavy / chemistry*
  • Soil / chemistry
  • Soil Pollutants / chemistry*
  • Waste Management
  • Water Pollutants / chemistry*


  • Coffee
  • Metals, Heavy
  • Soil
  • Soil Pollutants
  • Water Pollutants
  • biochar
  • Charcoal