Heavy metal contamination of a mixed waste compost: Metal speciation and fate

Mark Farrell, Davey L. Jones

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

64 Citations (Scopus)


The aims of this study were to assess changes in heavy metal availability in two contrasting feedstocks during aerobic composting, and the availability of said metals in the finished composts. A high C-to-N ratio mixed biodegradable municipal solid waste (MSW) feedstock was successfully composted on its own and in combination with green waste. Changes in heavy metal speciation throughout the composting process were studied using the modified BCR sequential extraction protocol. It was found that total Cu, Pb and Zn concentrations increased over time due to the progressive mineralization of the compost feedstock. Metals were fractionated differently within the two feedstocks, although only Cu showed significant redistribution (mostly to the oxidisable fraction) over the 5 month composting period. The MSW-derived composts performed comparably with other commercially-available composts in a series of plant growth trials. Plant metal accumulation was not influenced by the heavy metals present in the MSW-derived compost implying that they are not plant available. It is recommended that these relatively low value/quality composts may be used for remediation of acidic heavy metal contaminated sites.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4423-4432
Number of pages10
JournalBioresource Technology
Issue number19
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2009
Externally publishedYes


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