A variety of advanced oxidation processes (AOPS; O-3/OH-, H2O2/UV, Fe2+/H2O2, Fe3+/H2O2, Fe2+/H2O2/UV and Fe3+/H2O2/UV) have been applied for the oxidative pre-treatment of real penicillin formulation effluent (average COD0 = 1395 mg/L; TOC0 = 920 mg/L; BOD5,0 approximate to 0 mg/L). For the ozonation process the primary involvement of free radical species such as OH. in the oxidative reaction could be demonstrated via inspection of ozone absorption rates. Alkaline ozonation and the photo-Fenton's reagents both appeared to be the most promising AOPs in terms of COD (49-66%) and TOC (42-52%) abatement rates, whereas the BOD5 of the originally non-biodegradable effluent could only be improved to a value of 100 mg/L with O-3/pH = 3 treatment (BOD5/COD, f = 0.08). Evaluation on COD and TOC removal rates per applied active oxidant (AOx) and oxidant (Ox) on a molar basis revealed that alkaline ozonation and particularly the UV-light assisted Fenton processes enabling good oxidation yields (1-2 mol COD and TOC removal per AOx and Ox) by far outweighed the other studied AOPs. Separate experimental studies conducted with the penicillin active substance amoxicillin trihydrate indicated that the aqueous antibiotic substance can be completely eliminated after 40 min advanced oxidation applying photo-Fenton's reagent (pH = 3; Fe2+:H2O2 molar ratio = 1:20) and alkaline ozonation (at pH = 11.5), respectively. (C) 2004 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.