Leachate was collected from an anaerobic lagoon at Shanghai Laogang refuse landfill, the largest landfill in China, and the sample was separated into six fractions using micro-filtration membranes, followed by ultra-filtration membranes. Several parameters of the samples were measured, including chemical oxygen demand (COD), total organic carbon (TOC), total solids (TS), pH, total phosphate (TP), total nitrogen (TN), fixed solids (FS), NH4+, orthophosphate, color, turbidity, and conductivity. These parameters were then quantitatively correlated with the molecular weight cutoff of the membrane used. Organic matter in the dissolved fraction (MW<1kDa) predominated in the leachate, accounting for 65% of TOC. Thermal infrared spectroscopy was used to characterize the filter residues. Asymmetric and symmetric stretching of methyl and methylene groups, and of functional groups containing nitrogen and oxygen atoms, were observed. In addition, the ability of two different samples to adsorb heavy metals was tested. Cu2+ was chosen as the representative heavy metal in this study, and the samples were soil; aged refuse, which had spent 8 years in a conventional sanitary landfill; and samples of soil and aged refuse treated for 48h with leachate in the ratio of 5g of sample per 50ml of leachate. Cu2+ uptake by the raw soil was approximately 4.60microg/g, while uptake by the leachate-contacted soil and leachate-contacted aged refuse were 5.66 and 5.11microg/g, respectively. These results show that the organic matter in the leachate enhanced the capacity of aqueous solutions to adsorb Cu2+.