Opportunities for the Utilization of Phytoremediation Biomass Rich in Heavy Metals

Roxana Vidican, Tania Mihăiescu, Anca Pleșa, Ioana Crișan

Abstract


Contamination with heavy metals (HM) represents an environmental and health concern. One green solution to this problem is phytoremediation that uses plants to mitigate the contamination. Through phytoextraction, heavy metals are translocated and taken up by the plants and then stored in various organs (both aboveground and underground). Repeated disposal of harvested biomass can speed up the decontamination process. The resulting biomass can have various concentrations in heavy metals depending on the level of contamination. The fate of phytoremediation biomass rises further environmental problems. Market opportunities for safe valorization of the biomass might contribute at extending this technology to larger scales. To achieve this, the selection of plant species should consider besides the accumulation capacity also the potential economic value (aromatic and energy crops, pulp-paper crops, timber trees or ornamentals). Biomass can be used for the obtaining of safe essential oils, energy (thermal, electric), biofuels, biochar and organic acids with various uses. New emerging directions are phyto-mining for retrieval of certain valuable metals as well as the utilization of soils rich in Fe, Zn and Se for crop biofortification. The existing opportunities are dependent on contaminants, their level and plant selection. Phytoremediation strategy should take in consideration the valorization channels and possibilities from a commercial perspective in order to help integrate this green technology into a sustainable value-chain.


Keywords


heavy metals, decontamination, plants, valorization, upcycling.

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