Electrochemical Removal of Heavy Metals from Agricultural Waste

Nutrient Waste Recovery in Swine and Dairy Industries

At a Glance

Researchers at Colorado State University have designed an integrated remediation system which can extract nutrients from agricultural waste, and prevent heavy metal contamination.  This novel method is capable of extracting nutrients like copper, with high efficiency of more than 90% with the purity of 99.9% using electrochemistry. Because heavy metal contamination is a serious problem, practical remediation methods are warranted; furthermore, this system has the added benefit of introducing the application of both recyclability and reusability of these byproducts.


Heavy metal contamination is a major threat to the environment. One of these heavy metals is copper (Cu), which is used widely as an effective disinfectant in footbaths for dairy cows. Copper Sulfate (Cu SO4) is used three times a day in dairy farm footbaths, and then released into the premise lagoon. Copper can accumulate in soil and plants in the area where the lagoon effluent is applied. Heavy metal contamination is a particular concern because of the high toxicity of these substances, their resistance to degradation, and their high enrichment in organisms through bio-accurnulation.

Heavy metal contamination of soil may pose risks and hazards to humans and the ecosystem through:

  • Direct ingestion or contact with contaminated soil
  • The food chain (soil-plant-human or soil-plant-animal-human)
  • Drinking of contaminated ground water
  • Reduction in food quality (safety and marketability) via phytotoxicity
  • Reduction in land usability for agricultural production causing food insecurity
  • Land tenure problem


  • Avoid contamination of water systems and soil
  • Prevention of environmental disasters
  • Ability to both recycle and reuse byproducts


  • Swine and Dairy Industries
  • Electrochemical waste recycling
  • Agricultural waste management
  • Nutrient recovery from agricultural waste
Last Updated: June 2023
Cows in a pasture

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Sam Jalali
Terry E Engle

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Jessy McGowan