In the present work, sugar beet pulp, a common waste from the sugar refining industry, was studied in the removal of metal ions from aqueous solutions. The ability of this cheap biopolymer to sorb several metals namely Pb2+, Cu2+, Zn2+, Cd2+ and Ni2+ in aqueous solutions was investigated. The metal fixation capacities of the sorbent were determined according to operating conditions and the fixation mechanisms were identified. The biopolymer has shown high elimination rates and interesting metal fixation capacities. A pseudo-second-order kinetic model was tested to investigate the adsorption mechanisms. The kinetic parameters of the model were calculated and discussed. For 8 × 10-4 M initial metal concentration, the initial sorption rates (v0) ranged from 0.063 mmol.g-1.min-1 for Pb2+ to 0.275 mmol.g-1.min-1 for Ni2+ ions, with the order: Ni2+ > Cd2+ > Zn2+ > Cu2+ > Pb2+. The equilibrium data fitted well with the Langmuir model and showed the following affinity order of the material: Pb2+ > Cu2+ > Zn2+ > Cd2+ > Ni2+. Then, the kinetic and equilibrium parameters calculated qm and v0 were tentatively correlated to the properties of the metals.
Finally, equilibrium experiments in multimetallic systems were performed to study the competition of the fixation of Pb2+, Zn2+ and Ni2+ cations. In all cases, the metal fixation onto the biopolymer was found to be favourable in multicomponent systems. Based on these results, it is demonstrated that this biosorbent represents a low-cost solution for the treatment of metal-polluted wastewaters.