Heavy metals and chemical oxygen demand (COD) are major challenging pollutants for most electroplating wastewater treatment plants. A novel composite material, prepared with a mixture of calcium and sodium compounds and tailings, was simply mixed by ratios and used to treat a comprehensive electroplating wastewater with influent COD, total copper (T-Cu), and total nickel (T-Ni) respectively as 690, 4.01, and 20.60 mg/L on average. Operational parameters, i.e. the contact time, pH, mass ratio of calcium and sodium compounds and tailings, were optimized as 30 min, 10.0, and 4:2:1. Removal rates for COD, T-Cu, and T-Ni could reach 71.8, 90.5, and 98.1%, respectively. No significant effect of initial concentrations on removal of T-Cu and T-Ni was observed for the composite material. The adsorption of Cu(II) and Ni(II) on the material fitted Langmuir and Freundlich isotherms respectively. Weight of waste sludge from the calcium/sodium–tailing system after reaction was 10% less than that from the calcium–tailing system. The tailing-based composite is cost-effective in combating comprehensive electroplating pollution, which shows a possibility of applying the tailings in treating electroplating wastewater.

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