LIFE RELEACH - Decreasing the environmental impact of waste management: An innovative leachate treatment using recovered membranes.

LIFE13 ENV/ES/000970

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Contact details:

Contact person: Xavier MARTÍNEZ
Tel: 34938777373
Fax: 34938777374
Email: xavier.martinez@ctm.com.es

Project description:


The EU economy generates around three billion tonnes of waste annually, which has a huge negative impact on the environment and represents a significant loss of materials. Although disposal of municipal solid waste (MSW) in landfills has decreased over the last decade, the amount of MSW generated is increasing and landfill is still the most common waste management option in many EU countries. Leachate is a highly-polluted liquid generated by the decomposition of organic matter and rainwater percolating through landfills. It usually contains large amounts of organic matter, ammonia, heavy metals, chlorinated organic compounds, inorganic salts and other pollutants. Unless appropriately managed or treated, leachate can have harmful effects on groundwater and the surface water surrounding a landfill site, and also poses a serious risk to public health. An average municipal landfill site can produce up to 150 cubic metres of leachate per day, which equates to the amount of freshwater that an average household consumes in a year. Therefore, management and treatment of landfill leachate is one of the most important environmental issues related to waste management. Conventional treatment of landfill leachate is based on biological processes, and chemical and physical methods. Although these are usually suitable for young to intermediate leachate, such methods are insufficient to treat leachate from older landfill sites.


The objective of LIFE RELEACH was to demonstrate the technical and economic feasibility of new landfill leachate treatment strategies based on a range of existing technologies, primarily membrane separation processes. In particular, the project sought to evaluate different policies and legislation on landfill leachate; to perform a detailed characterisation of leachate from representative landfills at two demonstration landfill sites in Spain (Manresa and Oris); to use bench-scale equipment to optimise the different steps in the new process and define the best operational conditions for treating a specific leachate; and to design and build an innovative landfill leachate treatment plant based on the membrane separation process, including pre-treatment, desalination and concentrate treatment.


The LIFE RELEACH project designed, constructed and tested a pilot plant that uses an innovative strategy to treat landfill leachate, thus reducing environmental impacts and economic costs. The RELEACH process joins different existing technologies, grouped into leachate treatment, leachate desalination and concentrate treatment, to successfully treat leachate from old landfills. The two key innovations were the use of membranes recovered from other reverse osmosis procedures, and the implementation of a final step with reverse electrodialysis to increase the overall water recovery.

The pilot plant was operated for 450 days at two different landfills (Manresa and Oris) in Catalonia, Spain. It treated 3 000 m3 of leachate with a flow of 12 m3/day. The plant was based on two modules and three stages: biological treatment/ultrafiltration, reverse osmosis/nanofiltration, and electrodialysis reversal.

Through the RELEACH technology developed by the project, the following results could be obtained:

  • An increase of the water recovery rate: a global recovery of 90% can be attained, meaning that only 10% of the original leachate volume would have to be managed as a residue later;
  • Validation of the technical feasibility of the continuous operation of electrodialysis reversal for the reverse osmosis of brine concentration, with a recovery rate of around 70%;
  • A total removal of inorganic carbon in the biological treatment stage and high removal percentages of ammonia throughout the operational period;
  • Energy consumption was reduced by 16%-74% (depending of the conventional technology);
  • Reductions in reagent use by 99%; and
  • Reductions of at least 50% in CO2 emissions (mainly due to lower energy requirements), compared with conventional treatments.

In order to release the permeate to natural water bodies, an extra refining step, such as a second reverse osmosis step or a treatment with ionic exchange resins, can be included. The cost analyses showed that treating the leachate following RELEACH technology treatment can cost less than €40 per m3, which is up to €10 less per m3 compared to current methodologies, mainly thanks to the reduction of costs by re-using regenerated membranes.

The RELEACH consortium included an exploitation plan in the Final Report, with the aim of commercialising the RELEACH technology from 2019 onwards. It considers either the complete implementation of the RELEACH technology or its partial use for the further concentration of leachate concentrates.

The beneficiaries Protecmed, Typsa and CTM are creating a joint venture with the aim of optimising the technology at real-scale by means of their own funds.

The RELEACH project is in line with the Action Plan for the Circular Economy “Closing the Loop” (COM/2015/614) and with the Waste Framework Directive (2008/98/EC), both by minimising waste disposal and using recovered end-of-life membranes from desalination systems.

Further information on the project can be found in the project's layman report and After-LIFE Communication Plan (see "Read more" section).


Environmental issues addressed:


Waste - Municipal waste (including household and commercial)
Waste - End-of-pipe treatment - Landfilling


waste water treatment‚  emission reduction‚  waste treatment‚  reuse of materials‚  municipal waste‚  greenhouse gas‚  reverse osmosis‚  end-of-pipe technology‚  landfill leachate‚  landfill

Target EU Legislation

  • Waste
  • Directive 75/442/EEC -"Waste framework directive" (15.07.1975)
  • COM(2015)614 - "Closing the loop - An EU action plan for the Circular Economy" (02.12.2015)

Natura 2000 sites

Not applicable



Coordinator Fundació CTM Centre Tecnològic
Type of organisation Research institution
Description CTM Centre Tecnològic is a non-profit private foundation that provides specialised services and carries out R&D and innovation projects in the fields of environmental technology, materials technology, energy, simulation and innovative design and forming processes.


Project reference LIFE13 ENV/ES/000970
Duration 01-JUN-2014 to 30-NOV -2017
Total budget 2,145,730.00 €
EU contribution 1,069,986.00 €
Project location Cataluña(España)


Read more:

Brochure "Reduciendo el impacto ambiental en la gestión de los residuos: Un tratamiento innovador para los lixiviados utilizando membranas recuperadas. = Decreasing the environmental impact of waste management: An innovative leachate treatment using recovered membranes" (6.79 MB)
Brochure "Reduint l’impacte ambiental en la gestió dels residus: Un tractament innovador per als lixiviats utilitzant membranes recuperades = Decreasing the environmental impact of waste management: An innovative leachate treatment using recovered membranes [Catalan - English]" (7.06 MB)
Poster "RELEACH: Decreasing the environmental impact of w ...
Poster "RELEACH: Reduint l’impacte ambiental en la gestió ...
Project web site Project's website (also available in Catalan)
Project web site - 2 Project's Twitter page
Publication: After-LIFE Communication Plan After-LIFE Communication Plan
Publication: Layman report Layman report
Publication: Technical report Project's Final technical report
Video link "Decreasing the environmental impact of waste management: An innovative leachate treatment using recovered membranes" (English/Catalan, 7')


Project description   Environmental issues   Beneficiaries   Administrative data   Read more   Print   PDF version