Landfill Leachate Treatment by Using Second-Hand Reverse Osmosis Membranes: Long-Term Case Study in a Full-Scale Operating Facility

Landfill leachate (LFL) has a complex inorganic, organic and microbiological composition. Although pressure-driven membrane technology contributes to reaching the discharge limits, the need for frequent membrane replacement (typically every 1–3 years) is an economical and environmental limitation. The goal of this work is to evaluate the feasibility of using second-hand reverse osmosis (RO) membranes to treat LFL in an industrially relevant environment. End-of-life RO membranes discarded from a seawater desalination plant were first tested with brackish water and directly reused or regenerated to fit with requirements for LFL treatment. A laboratory scale test of second-hand membrane reuse was carried out using ultrafiltered LFL. Then, a long-term test in an LFL full-scale facility was performed, where half of the membranes of the facility were replaced. The industrial plant was operated for 27 months with second-hand membranes. The permeate water quality fit the required standards and the process showed a trend of lower energy requirement (up to 12 bar lower transmembrane pressure and up to 9% higher recovery than the average of the previous 4 years). Direct reuse and membrane regeneration were successfully proven to be an alternative management to landfill disposal, boosting membranes towards the circular economy ​
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