Water pollution exacerbates water stress and poses a great threat to the ecosystem and human health. Construction and demolition waste (CDW) due to rapid urbanization also causes heavy environmental burdens. A major proportion of CDW can be effectively converted into recycled aggregates, which can be reused in many fields, including environment remediation. In this study, a nano ecological recycled concrete (nano-ERC) was produced with recycled aggregates and copper oxide nanoparticles (nCuO) to remove heavy metals (HMs) from a simulated wastewater effluent (SWE) for further treatment. Recycled aggregates were obtained from CDW, thereby simultaneously reducing the treatment cost of the SWE and the environmental burden of solid waste. The adsorption capacity of nano-ERC was presumed to be significantly enhanced by the addition of nCuO due to the unique large surface-to-volume ratio and other properties of nanoparticles. The SWE containing five common HMs, arsenic (As), chromium (Cr), cadmium (Cd), manganese (Mn) and lead (Pb), was filtered through a control ERC and nano-ERCs, and the concentrations of these HMs were determined with ICP-MS in the SWE and the filtrates. Results showed the nano-ERCs could significantly remove these HMs from the SWE compared to the control ERC, due to the enhanced adsorption capacity by nCuO. The relative weighted average removal percentage (RWAR%) was in the range of 53.05–71.83% for nano-ERCs and 39.27–61.65% for control ERC. Except for Cr, concentrations of these HMs in the treated wastewater effluent met the requirements for crop irrigation or scenic water supplementation; the Cr may be removed by multiple filtrations. In conclusion, nano-ERC can serve as a cost-effective approach for the further treatment of wastewater effluent and may be applied more widely in wastewater treatment to help relieve water stress.
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