Did They Find a Better Way?


There is a landfill in DuPage County, IL, that is planting more than 7,500 poplar trees as part of a system that will help dispose of leachate. It’s supposed to save the county a lot of money and at the same time have very little environmental impact.

Planting trees in order to dispose of leachate. I saw the story in an article in the Chicago Tribune. The paper says it’s a process called “phyto-utilization” in which, basically, the trees consume the leachate. It sounds simple but there is a bit more to it.

According to the Tribune, hybrid poplar trees have the ability to evaporate millions of gallons of leachate a year. “Leachate is used as a resource in the plant-based system by providing needed moisture and nutrients for the plants, fueling fast growth. Leachate is kept onsite, cutting costs by 25–50 percent or more and reducing the facility’s carbon footprint.

“The total cost to install the system and trees is $919,100. The District expects to save $192,000 per year in disposal costs for every 5.5 million gallons of leachate handled by the system, according to District Resource Management and Development director Dan Zinnen. Over five years, the District hopes to reduce the volume of leachate in the landfill by 60 million gallons using phyto-utilization and an off-site wastewater treatment plant in Hanover Park, Zinnen said.

The District is planting poplar trees in two sections of the landfill: 7.9 acres at the top of the landfill, and 6.8 acres along the lower northern and flat eastern areas of the landfill. An automated pretreatment and distribution system will be installed in the landfill in early 2018 and leachate distribution should begin sometime in spring or summer 2018.

The Forest Reserve District of DuPage County is doing the installation of the system. It’s also hoping the new trees will provide new homes for wildlife as well as improve the view for nearby residents.

This new leachate management technology comes from a company called Leachate Management Specialists. The company website explains the phyto-utilization process like this: “We take advantage of the hybrid poplar qualities with our phyto-utilization process and leverage its high evapotranspiration (ET) capacity and high tolerance to eliminate leachate and industrial wastewater. The liquid is utilized as a resource and the contaminants act as macro and micro nutrients for the plants, fueling fast growth. It’s a natural solution to a practical problem. Our systems are engineered to include a fully automated control and distribution system that pumps the liquid from a pond or tank and irrigates rows of trees.”

We’re looking for more details on the process and have reached out to Leachate Management Specialists for more information that we can hopefully pass on to you. MSW_bug_web

  • Bill Strachan.

    This is nothing new and is a practice that is used in Europe. Several articles on the practice have appeared in ISWA’s journal Waste Management & Research including “Short-Rotation Tree Plantations At Sanitary Landfills” Vol. 6, Jan. 1988.

  • Steve Lippy.

    This concept has been around for decades, apparently, it is being resurrected.


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