Phenol, chromium, and dyes are continuously dumped into water bodies; the adsorption of these contaminants on activated carbon is a low-cost alternative for water remediation. We synthesized activated carbons from industrial waste of palm oil seed husks (kernel shells), sawdust, and tannery leather scraps. These materials were heated for 24 h at 600, 700 or 800°C, activated at 900°C with CO2 and characterized by proximate analysis and measurement of specific surface area (Brunauer–Emmett–Teller (BET) and Langmuir), and microporosity (t-plot). Isotherms showed micropores and mesopores in activated carbons. Palm seed activated carbon showed the highest fixed carbon content (96%), and Langmuir specific surface areas up to 1,268 m2/g, higher than those from sawdust (581 m2/g) and leather scraps (400 m2/g). The carbons were applied to adsorption of Cr(VI), phenol, and methylene blue dye from aqueous solutions. Phenol adsorption on activated carbons was 78–82 mg/g; on palm seed activated carbons, Cr(VI) adsorption at pH 7 was 0.35–0.37 mg/g, and methylene blue adsorption was 40–110 mg/g, higher than those from sawdust and leather scraps. Activated carbons from palm seed are promising materials to remove contaminants from the environment and represent an alternative application for vegetal wastes instead of dumping into landfills.

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