Environmental impact assessment of leachate recirculation in landfill of municipal solid waste by comparing with evaporation and discharge (EASEWASTE)

Wei Xing, Wenjing Lu, Yan Zhao, Xu Zhang, Wenjing Deng, Thomas Højlund Christensen

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In some arid regions where landfill produces minimal amount of leachate, leachate recirculation is suggested as a cost-effective option. However, its long-term impacts to environment remain disputed. For the purpose of revealing the environmental impacts of leachate recirculation in landfill, four scenarios were modeled using EASEWASTE, comparing the strategies of leachate recirculation (with or without gas management), evaporation and discharge. In the current situation (Scenario A), a total of 280t of waste was generated and then transported to a conventional landfill for disposal. A number of contaminants derived from waste can be stored in the landfill for long periods, with 11.69 person equivalent (PE) for stored ecotoxicity in water and 29.62 PE for stored ecotoxicity in soil, considered as potential risks of releasing to the environment someday. Meanwhile, impacts to ecotoxicity and human toxicity in surface water, and those to groundwater, present relatively low levels. In Scenario B, leachate evaporation in a collecting pool has minimal impacts on surface water. However, this strategy significantly impacts groundwater (1055.16 PE) because of the potential infiltration of leachate, with major contaminants of As, ammonia, and Cd. A number of ions, such as Cl−, Mg2+, and Ca2+, may also contaminate groundwater. In Scenario C, the direct discharge of leachate to surface water may result in acidification (2.71 PE) and nutrient enrichment (2.88 PE), primarily attributed to soluble ammonia in leachate and the depositional ammonia from biogas. Moreover, the direct discharge of leachate may also result in ecotoxicity and human toxicity via water contaminated by heavy metals in leachate, with 3.96 PE and 11.64 PE respectively. The results also show that landfill gas is the main contributor to global warming and photochemical ozone formation due to methane emission. In Scenario D, landfill gas flaring was thus be modeled and proven to be efficient for reducing impacts by approximately 90% in most categories, like global warming, photochemical ozone formation, acidification, nutrient enrichment, ecotoxicity, and human toxicity. Therefore, leachate recirculation is considered a cost-effective and environmentally viable solution for the current situation, and landfill gas treatment is urgently required. These results can provide important evidence for leachate and gas management of landfill in arid regions.
Original languageEnglish
JournalWaste Management
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)382-389
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • Life cycle assessment (LCA)
  • Leachate recirculation
  • Evaporation
  • Toxicity
  • Groundwater
  • Arid region

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