Reverse Osmosis Membrane System for Treating Landfill Leachate at Lower Cost

Technology #13915

This landfill leachate system includes disposable reverse osmosis membranes that process the liquid run-off from dump sites. The membranes are less expensive and easier to use than other effluent filters. Until now, strict environmental regulations have made leachate treatments costly and difficult for landfill operators to manage. Researchers at the University of Florida have developed an inexpensive system featuring disposable membranes that effectively capture the nutrients in leachate, separate out heavy metals and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), remove water from the landfill cell, and treat the water for reuse. The resulting byproducts make suitable fertilizers and the purified effluent nearly meets state and federal standards for drinking water. Between 900 million and 9 billion gallons of landfill leachate are generated every year in the United States, representing an economic and environmental opportunity to reclaim usable water and nutrients. The system, comprised of membranes, pipes, pumps, computers and software, treats leachate on site with minimal startup costs, energy consumption, odor and environmental damage.


Effective and sustainable system for treating landfill leachate while producing nitrogen-rich fertilizer byproducts


  • Limits the spread of contaminants, safeguarding drinking water
  • On-site treatment eliminates the need to truck leachate to water-treatment plants, lowering costs and minimizing environmental damage
  • Recycled reverse osmosis membranes from desalination plants can be used, reducing waste and startup costs
  • Leachate by-product is rich in nutrients, making it a suitable fertilizer and algae starter


Effluent treatment options are often energy-intensive, costly, and require transportation of leachate to secondary locations. This two-stage reverse osmosis system processes leachate by pulling it from the sump tank and passing it through disposable reverse osmosis membranes. A pilot study at the Alachua County Southwest Landfill in Florida treated more than six million gallons of leachate without replacing the membranes. Effluent that cannot pass through the membranes (the “concentrate”) can undergo additional processing. The treated concentrate can then be recycled to the beginning of the process, leaving only a small portion rejected for further treatment. Disposable reverse osmosis membranes separate out waste from water, creating products that can be used as fertilizers or algae starters.