Agricultural production results in wastes that can be re-used to improve the quality of the environment. This work has investigated for the first time the use of abundant, un-modified agricultural wastes and by-products (AWBs) from grape, wheat, barley and flax production, to reduce the concentration of Cd, a highly toxic and mobile heavy metal, in contaminated water. At concentrations of 1.1 mg Cd per L, flax and grape waste were found superior in removing Cd compared with a granular activated carbon used in water treatment, which is both more expensive and entails greater CO2 emissions in its production. At a pH representative of mine effluents, where Cd presents its greatest mobility and risk as a pollutant, grape and flax waste showed capacity for effective bulk water treatment due to rapid removal kinetics and moderate adsorption properties: reaching equilibrium within 183 and 8 min-adsorption capacities were determined as 3.99 and 3.36 mg Cd per g, respectively. The capacity to clean contaminated effluents was not correlated with the surface area of the biosorbents. Surface chemistry analysis indicated that Cd removal is associated with exchange with Ca, and chemisorption involving CdCO3, CdS and CdO groups. This work indicates that some AWBs can be directly (i.e. without pre-treatment or modification) used in bulk to remediate effluents contaminated with heavy metals, without requiring further cost or energy input, making them potentially suitable for low-cost treatment of persistent (e.g. via mine drainage) or acute (e.g. spillages) discharges in rural and other areas.