This research was performed to find an alternative, low-cost, competitive, locally available and efficient adsorbent to treat nickel (Ni) containing effluents. For this purpose, several Brazilian agro-wastes like sugarcane bagasse (SCB), passion fruit wastes (PFW), orange peel (OP) and pineapple peel (PP) were compared with an activated carbon (AC). The adsorbents were characterized. Effects of fundamental factors affecting the adsorption were investigated using batch tests. Kinetic and equilibrium studies were performed using conventional models. It was verified that the adsorption was favored at pH of 6.0 for all agro-wastes, being dependent of the Ni speciation, point of zero charge and surface area of the adsorbents. The Ni removal percentage was in the following order: SCB > OP > AC > PFW > PP. From the kinetic viewpoint, the Elovich model was appropriate to fit the Ni adsorption onto SCB, while for the other adsorbents, the pseudo-first-order model was the most suitable. For all adsorbents, the Langmuir model was the more adequate to represent the equilibrium data, being the maximum adsorption capacities of 64.1 mg g−1, 60.7 mg g−1, 63.1 mg g−1, 48.1 mg g−1 and 64.3 mg g−1 for SCB, PFW, OP, PP and AC, respectively. These results indicated that mainly SCB and OP can be used as alternative adsorbents to treat Ni containing effluents.

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