Environmental impact assessment of the current, emerging, and alternative waste management systems using life cycle assessment tools: a case study of Johannesburg, South Africa

Oluwatobi Adeleke*, Stephen A. Akinlabi, Tien Chien Jen, Israel Dunmade

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Proper information regarding the performance of waste management systems from an environmental perspective is significant to sustainable waste management decisions and planning toward the selection of the least impactful treatment options. However, little is known about the environmental impacts of the different waste management options in South Africa. This study is therefore aimed at using the life cycle assessment tool to assess the environmental impact of the current, emerging, and alternative waste management systems in South Africa, using the city of Johannesburg as a case study. This assessment involves a comparative analysis of the unit processes of waste management and the different waste management scenarios comprising two or more unit processes from an environmental view. The lifecycle boundary consists of unit processes: waste collection and transportation (WC&T), material recycling facilities (MRF), composting, incineration, and landfilling. Four scenarios developed for the assessment are S1 (WC&T, MRF, and landfilling without energy recovery), S2 (WC&T, MRF, composting, and landfilling with energy recovery), S3 (WC&T and incineration), and S4 (WC&T, MRF, composting, and incineration). Based on the result of this study, MRF is the most environmentally beneficial unit operation while landfill without energy recovery is the most impactful unit operation. The result further revealed that no scenario had the best performance across all the impact categories. However, S3 can be considered as the most environmentally friendly option owing to its lowest impact in most of the impact categories. S3 has the lowest global warming potential (GWP) of 33.19 × 106 kgCO2eq, ozone depletion potential (ODP) of 0.563 kgCFC-11e, and photochemical ozone depletion potential (PODP) of 679.46 kgC2H2eq. Also, S4 can be regarded as the most impactful option owing to its highest contributions to PODP of 1044 kgC2H2eq, acidification potential (AP) of 892073.8 kgSO2eq, and eutrophication potential (EP) of 51292.98 MaxPO4−3eq. The result of this study will be found helpful in creating a complete impression of the environmental performance of waste management systems in Johannesburg, South Africa which will aid sustainable planning and decisions by the concerned sector.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7366-7381
Number of pages16
JournalEnvironmental Science and Pollution Research
Issue number5
Early online date2 Sept 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2022
Externally publishedYes

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