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From brew to breakthrough: on-campus tea waste used to clean cancer-causing metal from water

Upcycled tea leaves have been found to absorb Chromium, found in wastewater from the electroplating, leather tanning, and textile industries.

Tea waste collected from a coffee shop at Queen’s is being saved from the landfill site and given a new lease of life, further boosting the University's green credentials and its work towards a better and more sustainable future for all. 

A team of researchers, led by Dr Chirangano Mangwandi, has been upcycling tea waste collected from an on-campus coffee shop into a product that can absorb Chromium, a toxic heavy metal that is poisonous and causes cancer in humans. 

By turning the tea waste into this absorbent product, Queen’s is preventing this from ending up on landfill sites and therefore reducing the production of methane.   

Where do we find Chromium? 

Chromium is found in wastewater from the electroplating (a process for producing metal), leather tanning, and textile industries. 

Dr Chirangano Mangwandi’s research has found that if the recycled tea leaves are used at the point of production, the tea waste will clean the water before it goes back into the main waterways, thus preventing harm to humans. 

What’s next? 

Dr Chirangano Mangwandi and his team are now testing the tea waste on wastewater that is contaminated by dyes, which are irritants, and antibiotics, which are potentially harmful. 

In broader terms, Queen’s has committed to achieving net zero by 2040, working with staff, students, and external partners to ensure it integrates climate action into all aspects of university life. 

More here: Sustainability | About | Queen's University Belfast ( 


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