Landfill leachate is the product of water that has percolated through waste deposits and contains various pollutants, which necessitate effective treatment before it can be released into the environment. In the last 30 years, there have been significant changes in landfill management practices in response to European Union (EU) Directives, which have led to changes in leachate composition, volumes produced and treatability. In this study, historic landfill data, combined with leachate characterisation data, were used to determine the impacts of EU Directives on landfill leachate management, composition and treatability. Inhibitory compounds including ammonium (NH4-N), cyanide, chromium, nickel and zinc, were present in young leachate at levels that may inhibit ammonium oxidising bacteria, while arsenic, copper and silver were present in young and intermediate age leachate at concentrations above inhibitory thresholds. In addition, the results of this study show that while young landfills produce less than 50% of total leachate by volume in the Republic of Ireland, they account for 70% of total annual leachate chemical oxygen demand (COD) load and approximately 80% of total 5-day biochemical oxygen demand (BOD5) and NH4-N loads. These results show that there has been a decrease in the volume of leachate produced per tonne of waste landfilled since enactment of the Landfill Directive, with a trend towards increased leachate strength (particularly COD and BOD5) during the initial five years of landfill operation. These changes may be attributed to changes in landfill management practices following the implementation of the Landfill Directive. However, this study did not demonstrate the impact of decreasing inputs of biodegradable municipal waste on leachate composition. Increasingly stringent wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) emission limit values represent a significant threat to the sustainability of co-treatment of leachate with municipal wastewater. In addition, the seasonal variation in leachate production poses a risk to effective co-treatment in municipal WWTPs, as periods of high leachate production coincide with periods of maximum hydraulic loading in WWTPs. (C) 2015 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.