Physico-chemical treatments for removal of recalcitrant contaminants from landfill leachate

Tonni Agustiono Kurniawan, Wai Hung Lo, Yuk Sing Gilbert Chan

Research output: Journal article publicationReview articleAcademic researchpeer-review

575 Citations (Scopus)


In this paper, the technical applicability and treatment performance of physico-chemical techniques (individual and/or combined) for landfill leachate are reviewed. A particular focus is given to coagulation-flocculation, chemical precipitation, ammonium stripping, membrane filtration and adsorption. The advantages and limitations of various techniques are evaluated. Their operating conditions such as pH, dose required, characteristics of leachate in terms of chemical oxygen demand (COD) and NH3-N concentration and treatment efficiency are compared. It is evident from the survey of 118 papers (1983-2005) that none of the individual physico-chemical techniques is universally applicable or highly effective for the removal of recalcitrant compounds from stabilized leachate. Among the treatments reviewed in this article, adsorption, membrane filtration and chemical precipitation are the most frequently applied and studied worldwide. Both activated carbon adsorption and nanofiltration are effective for over 95% COD removal with COD concentrations ranging from 5690 to 17,000 mg/L. About 98% removal of NH3-N with an initial concentration ranging from 3260 to 5618 mg/L has been achieved using struvite precipitation. A combination of physico-chemical and biological treatments has demonstrated its effectiveness for the treatment of stabilized leachate. Almost complete removal of COD and NH3-N has been accomplished by a combination of reverse osmosis (RO) and an upflow anaerobic sludge blanket (UASB) with an initial COD concentration of 35,000 mg/L and NH3-N concentration of 1600 mg/L and/or RO and activated sludge with an initial COD concentration of 6440 mg/L and NH3-N concentration of 1153 mg/L. It is important to note that the selection of the most suitable treatment method for landfill leachate depends on the characteristics of landfill leachate, technical applicability and constraints, effluent discharge alternatives, cost-effectiveness, regulatory requirements and environmental impact.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)80-100
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Hazardous Materials
Issue number1-3
Publication statusPublished - 28 Feb 2006


  • Ammoniacal-nitrogen
  • Combined treatment
  • Landfill leachate management
  • Municipal solid waste (MSW)
  • Non-biodegradable compounds

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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