Microplastics and PFAS in landfill-wastewater treatment systems: a field study

Published: 12 July 2024| Version 2 | DOI: 10.17632/gpb62tygmd.2
Andres Prada, John Scott, Lee Green, Timothy Hoellein


Landfills and wastewater treatment plants (WWTP) are point sources for many emerging contaminants, including microplastics and per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). Previous studies have estimated the abundance and transport of microplastics and PFAS separately in landfills and WWTPs. In addition, previous studies typically report concentrations of microplastics as particle count/L or count/gram sediment, which do not provide the information needed to calculate mass balances. We measured microplastics and PFAS in four landfill-WWTP systems in Illinois, USA, and quantified mass of both contaminants in landfill leachate, WWTP influent, effluent, and biosolids. Microplastic concentrations in WWTP influent were similar in magnitude to landfill leachates. In contrast, PFAS concentrations were higher in leachates than WWTP influent. After treatment, both contaminants were detected in WWTP effluent and biosolids, with high prevalence of both contaminants in the biosolids. We concluded that WWTPs reduce PFAS and microplastics, lowering concentrations in the effluent that is discharged to nearby surface waters. However, partitioning of both contaminants to biosolids has implications for further use of biosolids in land applications.



Loyola University Chicago, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign


Landfill Leachate, Municipal Wastewater, Microplastics, Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances


Hazardous Waste Research Fund