Revisiting Microplastics in Landfill Leachate: Unnoticed Tiny Microplastics and Their Fate in Treatment Works. Article

Sun, Jing, Zhu, Zhuo-Ran, Li, Wei-Hua et al. (2021). Revisiting Microplastics in Landfill Leachate: Unnoticed Tiny Microplastics and Their Fate in Treatment Works. . WATER RESEARCH, 190 116784. 10.1016/j.watres.2020.116784

cited authors

  • Sun, Jing; Zhu, Zhuo-Ran; Li, Wei-Hua; Yan, Xiaofang; Wang, Li-Kun; Zhang, Lu; Jin, Jianbin; Dai, Xiaohu; Ni, Bing-Jie



  • Due to the environmental risks caused by microplastics, understanding the sources and characteristics of microplastics and cutting off their routes into the environment are crucial. However, so far, studies on microplastics in the landfill leachate system (a major pathway of microplastics into the environment) are still limited, especially for tiny particles <50 µm that might have higher risks to the environment. This study investigated the microplastics in landfill leachate and in leachate treatment works, with a size detection limit down to 10 µm. The results showed that the microplastics particle and mass concentrations in the untreated leachate were 235.4 ± 17.1 item/L and 11.4 ± 0.8 µg/L, respectively, with tiny particles (<50 µm) accounting for over 50%. Overall, 27 polymeric materials were detected in leachate samples, with polyethylene and polypropylene being the most abundant in the untreated leachate. The neutral buoyancy of microplastics (average density: 0.94 g/cm3), together with irregular shapes, suggested they may be difficult to be removed by sedimentation. Further exploring the fate of microplastics in leachate treatment works showed that the membrane treatment effectively reduced microplastics loading to 0.14% for particle and 0.01% for mass, but the average particle density rose. The differences in polymeric materials distribution at different sampling locations and the presence of membrane-related polymer in membrane treatment effluent suggested tiny microplastics could be generated and released from membrane systems. Moreover, this study discovered that the sludge dewatering liquor could contain a high amount of microplastics, and the estimated particle loading was about 3.6 times higher than that in dewatered sludge. This suggested a new approach to microplastics mitigation through separating microplastics from the sludge dewatering liquor before its recirculation.

publication date

  • February 1, 2021

published in


  • Microplastics
  • Plastics
  • Sewage
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)


  • Print-Electronic

start page

  • 116784


  • 190