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Heavy Metals and Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons in Urban Leaf Litter Designated for Combustion
Vast amounts of leaf litter have to be disposed of by city administrations. This biomass has the potential for energy conversion, but contamination with pollutants can adversely affect this usage. We investigated leaf litter samples from the city of Kassel by analyzing their heavy metal and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) concentrations. Leaf samples were indeed contaminated with heavy metals and PAHs and contamination was influenced by provenience and collection technique. A simple cleaning system of washing and subsequent mechanical dewatering significantly reduced heavy metal concentration. Regression models were developed for contamination with heavy metals which showed that contamination could be successfully estimated using the total ash content of the sample as a predictor, with an R2 of up to 0.77. It can be concluded that leaf litter from cities is a possible feedstock for energetic conversion, provided a cleaning step is applied.