Municipal solid waste (MSW) is slow to stabilize under conventional anaerobic landfill conditions, demanding long-term monitoring and pollution control. Provision of aerobic conditions offers several advantages including accelerated leachate stabilization, increased landfill airspace recovery and a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

Air injection was applied over 130 days to bench-scale bioreactors containing fresh and aged MSW representative of newly constructed and pre-existing landfill conditions. In the fresh MSW simulation bioreactors, aeration reduced the average time to stabilization of leachate pH by 46 days, TSS by 42 days, TDS by 84 days, BOD5 by 46 days and COD by 32 days. In addition, final leachate concentrations were consistently lower in aerated test cells. There was no indication of a gradual decrease in the concentration of ammonia, and it is likely this high ammonia concentration would continue to be problematic in bioreactor landfill applications.

This study focussed only on biodegradability of organics in the solid waste. The concentrations of the nonreactive or conservative substances such as chloride and/or heavy metals remain in the bioreactor landfills due to the continuous recirculation of leachate.

The results of this study demonstrate the potential for air injection to accelerate stabilization of municipal solid waste, with greatest influence on fresh waste with a high biodegradable organic fraction.

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