Analysis of Family Waste Production


28 Mar 2018

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Waste generated in my home

Andrew Connor Cowan


What is the amount of waste produced by my household

Over 42 million cubic meters of general waste is generated every year across the country, with the largest proportion coming from Gauteng (42%). In addition, more than 5 million cubic meters of hazardous waste are produced every year, mostly in Mpumalanga and KZN due to the increase of mining activities and fertilizer production.

The amount of waste generated by the average South African is ± 0.7 kg’s. Which means the average 4 person families produces ± 2.8 kg’s a day. But the largest contributors to the solid waste stream by far is mining waste (± 72.3%), followed by pulverized fuel ash (± 6.7%), agricultural waste (± 6.1%), urban waste (± 4.5%) and sewage sludge (± 3.6%).

Estimated decomposition rates of most debris found in landfills are:

  • Foamed plastic cups: 50 years
  • Plastic beverage holder: 400 years
  • Disposable diapers: 450 year
  • Plastic bottle: 450 years
  • Fishing line: 600 years.
  • Glass bottle 1 million years
  • Aluminum can: 80-200 years
  • Plastic beverage bottles: 450 years
  • Boot sole: 50-80 years
  • Tin can: 50 years
  • Leather: 50 years
  • Nylon fabric: 30-40 years
  • Plastic film canister: 20-30 years
  • Plastic bag: 10-20 years (???)
  • Cigarette filter: 1-5 years
  • Wool sock: 1-5 years
  • Plywood: 1-3 years
  • Waxed milk carton: 3 months
  • Apple core: 2 months
  • Newspaper: 6 weeks
  • Paper: 2 to 5 months
  • Banana peel: 2-5 weeks
  • Orange peel: 6 months
  • Paper towel: 2-4 weeks
  • Batteries: 100 years

[figure 1.1 in appendix 1]

The percentage contribution of each waste stream to the composition of general waste is illustrated in Figure 1 [Appendix 3]. Non-recyclable municipal waste contributes 34% (by weight) of the overall general waste, construction and demolition waste, 21%, followed by metals (14%), organic waste 13% and mainline recyclables (including paper, plastics, glass and tyres )(18%). {See reference page Ref. ... for sourcing}


My family produces a average amount of waste.


The aim of this experiment is to view and record my households daily waste generation and compare it to the average waste production of the average South African family.


  • Kitchen scale
  • Bag (for measuring weight of bag not included in results)
  • Paper (recording results)
  • Pen (writing down results)


  1. Independent Variables
    1. The amount of people in my household (does not changed by choice)
  2. Dependent variables
    1. The amount of waste produced by my household
  3. Fixed variables
    1. The bag used to take measurements
    2. When I take the measurements


  1. Take the trash and dived it into 6 different categories (glass, plastic, tin, paper & cardboard, organics and non-recyclables).
  2. Weigh each category separately and record the results
  3. Calculate the total for the day
  4. Repeat daily for a week calculating the total at the end of the week as well as the averages of each category
  5. Repeat for 3 weeks

See appendix 2 for results


I have to say that my results are inconclusive because my findings fluctuate and I was unable to undertake more tests.

To improve my results I would Extent the testing period to about least 5 months instead of 3 weeks to view if the results change according to season

My household recycles ± 95% of all of its recyclable materials and all organic materials are either fed to the animals or are thrown onto a compost heap (apart from bones)

My family will soon institute a policy of cutting down on the amount of Non-recycleable materials purchased

joburg landfill.jpg

Figure 1.1: Johannesburg city landfill

The following tables contain the results of the experiment all measurements are in kilograms

Figure 3.1 [The waste composition for general waste, 2011 (percentage by mass), other, which is mainly biomass waste from industrial sources) ] {See reference page Ref 1 for sourcing}

  1. Graph and percentages have been adapted from the national waste information baseline report draft 6, 5 September 2012 Published by: Department of Environmental Affairs
  2. Monkeyland: South African waste facts


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