Potential of medium chain fatty acids production from municipal solid waste leachate: Effect of age and external electron donors

Waste Manag. 2021 Feb 1:120:503-512. doi: 10.1016/j.wasman.2020.10.013. Epub 2020 Oct 29.


A large quantity of leachate is generated during municipal solid waste collection operation and in landfills due to the large amount of organic waste and high humidity. The content of medium chain fatty acids (MCFAs) in the leachate is a low cost feedstock for bio-based chemical and fuel production processes. The aim of this study is to investigate the MCFA production potential of three leachate ages through chain elongation process under uncontrolled pH batch test. Moreover, the effect of using different external electron donors (ethanol, methanol and a mixture of both) is studied. The experiment consists of characterizing the samples then adding external electron donors with a specific ratio to leachate samples under mesophilic temperature. For this investigation, also a statistical analysis is done, which shows the production of MCFAs is highly influenced by leachate age. The results indicate that the production of even-numbered acids increase from 600 to 1,000 mg/L by the end of the ethanol chain elongation experiment for young leachate. However, a higher MCFA production of more than 1,000 mg/L is achieved by using the mixture of methanol and ethanol as electron donor. Furthermore, all methanol chain elongation experiments lead to an odd-numbered production of MCFAs, such as pentanoic and heptanoic acids. These results confirm the potential improvement of MCFA production from leachate through choosing the optimal leachate age and electron donor. Overall, producing MCFAs from leachate is a good example of circular bio-economy because waste is used to produce biochemicals, which closes the material cycle.

Keywords: Bio-based products; Circular bio-economy; External electron donor; Leachate; Medium chain fatty acid; Municipal solid waste.

MeSH terms

  • Electrons*
  • Fatty Acids
  • Fermentation
  • Solid Waste*
  • Waste Disposal Facilities


  • Fatty Acids
  • Solid Waste