Recent trends in the use of fly ash for the adsorption of pollutants in contaminated wastewater and soils: Effects on soil quality and plant growth

Muhammad Usman*, Ioannis Anastopoulos, Yasir Hamid, Abdul Wakeel

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Fly ash is one of the largest types of industrial wastes produced during the combustion of coal for energy generation. Finding efficient and sustainable solutions for its reuse has been the subject of substantial research worldwide. Here, we review the recent research data related to (i) the use of fly ash as a low-cost adsorbent for pollutants in wastewater and soils and (ii) its implications in soil–plant system. Fly ash showed prominent adsorption capacity for pollutants in water especially when it was activated or applied in composites. In addition to direct pollutant binding in soils, fly ash can enhance the soil pH indirectly increasing metals’ immobilization reducing their plant uptake. Its non-selective adsorptive nature may lead to the co-adsorption of nutrients with pollutants which merits to be considered. Owing to its considerable nutrient contents, fly ash can also improve soil fertility and plant growth. The effects of fly ash on soil physico-chemical properties, microbial population and plant growth are critically evaluated. Fly ash can also contain potentially toxic contaminants (toxic metals, hydrocarbons, etc.) which could have harmful impacts on soil health and plant growth. Identifying the levels of inherent pollutants in fly ash is crucial to evaluate its suitability as a soil amendment. Negative effects of fly ash can also be addressed by using co-amendments, biological agents, and most importantly by an adequate calibration (dose and type) of fly ash based on site-specific conditions. Research directions are identified to promote the research regarding its use in wastewater treatment and agriculture.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEnvironmental Science and Pollution Research
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2022


  • Adsorption
  • Coal fly ash
  • Crop production
  • Environmental pollution
  • Soil remediation
  • Wastewater treatment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis

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