Journal of Environmental Protection, 2011, 2, 692-699
doi:10.4236/jep.2011.26080 Published Online August 2011 (
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. JEP
Characterization of Household Solid Waste in the
Town of Abomey—Calavi in Benin
Nikita Topanou1,2, Mariane Domeizel1, Jacques Fatombi2, Roger Gérard Josse2, Taofiki Aminou2
1Laboratory Provence Chemistry, University Aix-Marseille/CNRS, Team Environment Chemistry Continental, Marseille Cedex 3,
France; 2Laboratory Expertise and Research in Chemistry for Water and Environment, University of Abomey-Calavi, Cotonou, Benin.
Received March 21st, 2011; revised May 5th, 2011; accepted June 6th, 2011.
Identification of waste characteristics is an important step towards imp roving waste recovery. The aim of this research
was to determine the physical and physico-chemical characteristics of waste of Abomey–Calavi city and to study the
relationship between standard of living and average ratio of daily waste generated by each person. In this study the
methodology used French standards to characterize particle size and typology of solid waste generated by the popula-
tion of Calavi City in Benin, West Africa. According to home criteria, the study area was stratified into three distinct
levels of standard of living called: high standing, medium standing and low standing; Waste from 60 households was
weighed daily. The total waste produced by each household was collected seven (7) days a week, for a period of three
weeks. Waste characterization was performed using ratio, size granulometry and typological composition. Physico-
Chemical analysis including organ ic mater, pH, Total Organic Carbon, tota l Kjelda hl nitrog en and metal tra ce element
were also performed. To better assess waste compostability, water extractable organic matter was quantified and
qualitative iden tification was made with XAD8 and XAD4 resins. Results show that the amount of waste increases with
the standard of living; the average ratio of daily waste generated is 0.89 kg·day–1·person–1. Independently of the stan-
dard of living, fermentable compounds represent the largest proportion of waste materials (45%). Qualitative differ-
ence of waste content in organic matter is shown as a function of the populations living standards. These results could
be explained by a higher consumption of meat in the households with a higher standard of living, reflecting a greater
proportion of transphilic (TPI), and hydrophilic (HPI) fractions. The C/N ratio is lower in the high standing households
than in low ones. Metal trace element analysis sho wed a low but still significant pollution, whereas high iron and alu-
minum concentrations were found in all standings. In conclusion we propose a strategy for waste management in
Abomey-Calavi based on sorting at the source to eliminate plastic waste and valorization of wastes via composting.
Keywords: Wastes, Standard of Living, Wat er Extractable Organic Matt e r, Metal Trace Element, XAD8/XAD4 Resins
1. Introduction
Choice of waste management systems depends on deci-
sions by city leaders as well as strategic structures related
to the nature, quality and quantity of waste produced [1],
[2]. Waste management is a challenge that local authori-
ties and researchers address using multidisciplinary ap-
proaches ranging from the humanities to exact sciences
such as biology and engineering [1].
The level of development of a country has an impact
on its waste management choices [1,3]. According to C.
Riber et al., developed countries utilize various methods
for waste management which give way to renewable en-
ergy forms and the emergence of new products such as
compost [4]. In these countries, considerable investment
is made to recycle waste for the benefit of agriculture [5,
6]. V. François et al. (2006), however, notice that waste
management in developing countries remains an addi-
tional weakness which continues to hinder their emer-
gence [1]. According to K. Kapepula et al. (2007), the
noticeable delay in waste management, observed in de-
veloping countries, is probably due to insufficient in-
vestment and difficulties in addressing the issue with
approaches suitable to their socio-economical context [2].
According to L. Parrot et al. [7] and A. Afon [8], there
are insufficient studies focused on waste characterization
in waste management planning in African cities which
hinders their decision-making in regards to adapting
waste management as a tool of environmental protection.
Waste characterization is the prerequisite for developing
management strategies and/or for maintaining up to date
Characterization of Household Solid Waste in the Town of Abomey—Calavi in Benin693
data. The lack of data is due to the exorbitant costs of the
methodologies coming from developed countries, and on
their inappropriate transfer to less developed countries.
These two aspects prevent effective and sustainable
waste management in developing countries [5,8].
In Benin, (West Africa), few scientific studies have
undertaken the management of household waste. The
present study was initiated to overcome this deficit. Its
objective is to contribute to better waste management.
For this reason, this study will characterize the typology
and size of waste particles, their physico-chemical char-
acteristics, organic matter content and contamination by
metal trace element to better determine the amount of
solid waste produced and collected at the source in the
district of Abomey-Calavi, Benin.
2. Materials and Methods
2.1. Area of Study
Wastes have been collected at source in Calavi town in
Abomey-Calavi district (Figure 1).
Geographically, the district is located at 6°26'46.8"
north latitude and 2°20'53" east longitude; population is
estimated to 307,745 inhabitants [9].
The district of Abomey Calavi covers an area of 539
km2 with an average population density of 571 inhabi-
tants per km2, unevenly distributed within nine (9) ad-
ministrative subdivisions. Seventy four percent (74.12%)
of the population lives in administrative subdivisions of
Godo- mey and Calavi [9]. The choice of the Calavi dis-
trict offers the advantage for the present study, that three
distinct standard of living levels are present in a single
2.2. Sampling
Sampling was conducted according to methods used by
Bernache-Perez and al [10,11]. The target population
represents all households in the Abomey Calavi district.
Stratified random sampling was performed. According to
home criteria, the study area was stratified into three dis-
tinct levels of standard of living called: high standing,
medium standing and low standing [10,11]. Criteria to
assess standard of living were based on building materi-
als, finish work, and access to electricity and running
For each category, twenty (20) households were se-
lected at random. Bins were distributed each day to the
60 selected households to collect the waste generated
daily. Household wastes were sampled and routed to the
sorting site daily. Waste from each household was
weighed daily. The total waste produced by each house-
hold was collected seven (7) days a week, for a period of
three weeks.
2.3. Sorting
For each sorting operation, 500 kg of household waste
were divided into four equal parts. A part was taken for
physico-chemical characterization; two other parts were
selected and submitted to particle size and typological
sorting [11]. The fourth part was eliminated.
Waste composition was divided into eight (8) main
categories: fermentable, metals, glass, plastics, paper, sand,
gauze and other materials [6]. Gravel, paving stones and
debris from materials used in house building were gath-
ered in the category “other materials”.
Particle size characterization was performed on a sort-
ing table with pores of various diameters (100 mm, 80
mm and 20 mm) [11,12].
2.4. Physico-Chemical Analysis
Wastes were dried at 105˚C for 24 hours and then were
crushed, (2 mm and 0.25 mm) [1]. Organic matter, pH,
Total Organic Carbon (TOC), Total Kjeldahl nitrogen
and concentrations of metal element traces [1,2,4,8] were
analyzed using fine powder samples.
Organic matter was determined after calcination of 3g
of dry waste at 550˚C for 4 hours. Organic matter rates
were obtained in accordance with the difference between
mass of dry matter before and after burning compared
with initial mass introduced in the furnace [2,4].
Values for pH were measured on a suspension of thin
powder in boiled water with a 2.5 liquid/solid weight
ratio. Water mixed with waste was homogenized and
then cooled to room temperature [6].
TOC was measured using a Total Organic Carbon
analyzer, Solid Module: Shimadzu_SSM 5000.
Determination of nitrogen portion was made with the
Kjeldahl method [13,14].
Reflux wet mineralization (aqua regia), was chosen
with 1g of sample and 20 ml of aqua regia (1/3 HNO3
–2/3 HCl) [15]; Metals Al, Fe, Mn, Pb, Zn, Cd, Cr, Cu
and Ni were determined by ICP AES JY 2000 Ultrace
2.5. Extraction and Characterization of Water
Extractable Organic Matter (WEOM)
2.5.1. Extraction
Water Extractable Organic Matter (WEOM) was ex-
tracted by shaking 200 g of waste thin powder in 400 mL
of ultrapure water using 500 mL plastic bottles for 15
min. The mixture (emulsion) set for 15 min. The super-
natant liquid was subsequently filtered through 0.45 μm
membrane filters (Durapore®, Millipore, France). WEOM
was conserved in the dark at 24˚C in acid-washed and
oven-dried glass flasks [16,17].
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. JEP
Characterization of Household Solid Waste in the Town of Abomey—Calavi in Benin
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. JEP
Figure 1. Physical location of Abomey – Calavi District.
Characterization of Household Solid Waste in the Town of Abomey—Calavi in Benin695
2.5.2. Fractionation on XAD-8/4 Resins
Fractionation on XAD resins was performed according to
a method modified by Mohammad H, Martin and Mous-
set using Amberlite XAD-8 and XAD-4 resins connected
in tandem (Figure 2) [17,18]. Resins were extensively
cleaned by Soxhlet extraction using different organic
solvents and continued using acidified Milli-Q water
(HCl, pH = 2) until resin effluent contained less than
0.20 mg·C·l1 (Hassouna et al.). Prior to fractionation,
samples were acidified to pH 2 by adding 5.0 M HCl. No
precipitation following acidification was observed in any
of the samples analyzed in this study. The hydrophilic
acids fractions (HPIA), contained in the resin effluent,
were progressively collected during fractionation. The
hydrophobic (HPOA) and transphilic (TPIA) acid frac-
tions were respectively recovered by back eluting XAD-8
and XAD-4 resins using 0.10 M NaOH. Fractions were
named following the nomenclature proposed by Croué et
al. [16]. Due to this relatively high yield, no further ma-
nipulations were attempted to recover residual OM
non-desorbed with 0.1 M NaOH. Immediately after de-
sorption, all fractions were re-acidified to pH 2 and kept
in the dark at 4˚C for further analysis.
Carbon contained in the three fractions (Total, Tran-
sphilic, Hydrophobic and hydrophilic fraction) was ana-
lyzed by Total Organic Carbon analyzer, Solid Module:
Shimadzu_SSM 5000.
3. Results and Discussions
3.1. General Characteristics
Average ratios (Table 1) registered in Abomey Calavi
show that daily production of waste is lower in Benin
than in France or USA, two of the top five countries in
terms of gross domestic product (GDP). Moreover, re-
sults of this study do not differ much from those ob-
served by Tezanou et al. [20] in Ouagadougou, a city
with a socioeconomic level similar to Abomey Calavi.
However, the results of Aouleimine in Mauritania re-
vealed a lower ratio [19]. But comparison would be dif-
Figure 2. Global division of the (WEOM) on XAD 8/4 XAD
ficult because the ratio for Mauritania does not take into
account organic matter. Compared with some other
countries with limited resources, the ratio of daily waste
generated per capita in the city of Calavi is high. How-
ever, comparison must be initiated because dates of study
are different and waste production grows over time. Ma.
C. Hernandez-Berriel, et al. indicated that ratio changes
over time [20]. For example in Mexico the daily ratio
was 0.865 in 2000 and 0.963 in 2005 [21]. Similarly, A.
Le Bozec showed that, in 40 years, the production of
household waste was multiplied by two in France [22].
This research helped to establish the link between the
living standards and quantity of waste produced. Rotich
K. et al. confirmed that changes in lifestyles, food habits,
consumption and population growth had a strong impact
on daily waste production. Increase of waste production
in developed countries and in developing countries is due
to impact of wealth, of food habits and reflects a rela-
tionship between the standard of living and quantity of
waste produced.
Moreover, similar variation in the standard of living
was observed between the countries compared in Table 1.
High and medium standings have close values, though
systematically slightly larger for high standing. Low
standing produced the lowest amount of waste according
to Tezanou J. and Sara Ojeda-Ben [11,23].
Fermentable matter was the largest proportion regard-
less of the standing status (Table 2). Green wastes (ve-
getable, scraps) were the most representative components
of fermentable materials. These results confirm those of
P. Féniel et al. and O. Oyelola et al. [6,24]. High pro-
portion of fermentable materials in waste could suggest
organic matter valorization by composting.
Table 2 also showed that sand was present in more
than 20% in each standing class, especially in the lower
class where the proportion is around 40%. The type of
house explained the presence of sand. In the lower class,
the soil was generally not covered. The sand was much
more present in these homes in contrast with higher
standing homes in closed building protected from erosion
by a generally well arranged courtyard. Debris and other
construction materials represented less than 5% in the
lower class household waste whereas they were in large
quantity, up to 22%, of high class waste where building
improvements are more common. All standing consi-
dered paper and cardboard, plastics, glass, metals, were
less than 5%. Paper and cardboard waste were easily
Material size was under 20 mm for nearly 30% of
waste in high and medium standing households and more
than 50% in the low standing ones (Table 3). These re-
sults showed that sand presence could be an obstacle to
waste valorization through composting.
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. JEP
Characterization of Household Solid Waste in the Town of Abomey—Calavi in Benin
Table 1. Comparison of ratios of Abomey—Calavi with other cities.
Daily ratio per standing (kg/day/inh.)
High Medium Low
Average ratio of the
(kg/day/inh.) Sources Ranks GDP
Ab-Calavi/ Benin 0.94 0.92 0.82 0.89 Present study (2009) 133rd
Burkina faso 0.68 0.61 0.56 0.62 Tezanou J. (2001) [23] 128th
Mauritanie (1) 0.40 0.34 0.30 0.35 Aouleimine (2005) [19] 150th
Paris /France na na na 1.4 A. Le Bozec (2008) [22] 5th
Washington/USA 2.51 2.0 1.85 2.10 EPA (2002) [21] 1st
na: not available. (1) Nouakchott ratios do not take into account organic material. (2) Source: World Bank and IMF.
Table 2. Typological Characterization of waste.
High standing Medium standing Low standing
Fermentable (%) 48.26 ± 4.53 55.34 ± 3.28 49.61 ± 4.12
Sand (%) 21.45 ± 5.26 20.99 ± 7.01 38.76 ± 5.51
Cardboard paper (%) 0.50 ± 0.05 2.29 ± 0.23 1.55 ± 0.21
Plastics (%) 2.68 ± 0.25 3.81 ± 0.15 1.67 ± 0.02
Glass (%) 2.68 ± 0.08 0.19 ± 0.14 1.55 ± 0.08
Metal (%) 0.27 ± 0.10 1.90 ± 0.81 1.54 ± 0.07
Textiles (%) 0.34 ± 0.02 5.72 ± 0.09 1.55 ± 0.18
Other (%) 22.79 ± 5.98 8.59 ± 2.21 3.10 ± 1.95
Table 3. Granulometry characterization of waste.
Granulometry size (mm) High standing Medium standing Low standing
> 100 0.33 ± 0.05 4.25 ± 1.23 11.60 ± 0.97
] 100-80] 1.84 ± 0.86 17.28 ± 5.94 14.43 ± 7.75
] 80-20] 70.97 ± 21.51 49.20 ± 15.89 20.80 ± 14.02
< 20 26.84 ± 15.12 29.25 ± 18.88 53.08 ± 8.05
Plastic bags, metals and paper constituted the major
part of waste debris of diameter between 20 and 80 mm.
For this category of waste, high standing uses an ex-
tremely high quantity of plastic bags, the highest propor-
tion (70%) in these samples. A reflection on the use, re-
covery and recycling plastic waste has to be conducted.
3.2. Chemical Characterization
In agreement with results observed previously, organic
matter concentration and pH were similar (Table 4) irre-
spective of the standing. The rate of organic matter is
lower in low standing than medium and high standing.
In medium standing, green wastes from food mainly
composed of fruit and vegetable left-overs were present.
Organic matter rate was an important indicator in the
choice of waste treatment process (incineration or com-
posting). Usually a high organic matter rate suggests
composting. C/N ratio varies with the standing confirm-
ing that waste quality was not identical for all standings.
C/N ratio of low standing was high and closer to the ratio
of lignin content wastes [25]. Concerning C/N ratio of
medium and high standing, they were quite similar. It
seems evident that the difference between these ratios is
related to the type of food consumed in each standing.
High standing populations eat much higher quantity of
meat. This ratio is also a good indicator of compostable
waste. Compostable waste must have a C/N ratio close to
15 to allow faster organic matter degradation [25].
Wastes collected at the level of high and medium stand-
ing could be composted. On the other hand, C/N ratio
could be too high in the lower standing to expect a rapid
composting and satisfy industrial requirements.
3.3. Characteristics of Water Extractable
Organic Carbon (WEOC) and Its Fractions
Although composting could be an appropriate way of
waste valorization, identification of water extractable
organic carbon (WEOC) had to be made. In this study,
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. JEP
Characterization of Household Solid Waste in the Town of Abomey—Calavi in Benin697
Table 4. Chemical parameters of the solid waste according to the standard of living.
High standing Medium standing Low standing
pH 7.85 ± 1.34 7.96 ± 1.19 7.70 ± 0.93
Moisture 57.41± 2.30 70.16 ± 1.53 73.4± 1.45
Organic matter ( %) 63.33 ± 1.85 66.66 ± 1.73 52.73 ± 2.06
Total Organic Carbon (mg of carbon/g dry material) 15.26 ± 6.12 12.37 ± 6.51 17.52 ± 6.86
Nitrogen Kjeldahl (mg/g) 1.42 ± 0.23 0.73 ± 0.08 0.55 ± 0.04
Report C/N 10.72 16.83 31.97
the choice was to identify the total water extractable or-
ganic carbon (WEOC) and its 3 sub-fractions (Figure 2).
This choice allowed us to better assess WEOC, the bioa-
vailable fraction of wastes and the most accessible frac-
tion to microorganisms. Extraction technique was based
on the WEOM size, on the one hand, and on more or less
hydrophilic functional groups on the other hand. WEOC-
HPI represents the fraction of extractable organic carbon
in water present in the hydrophilic phase not retained on
resin. WEOC-HPO (retained on XAD8 resin) represents
the fraction present at the hydrophobic phase and
WEOC-TRA represents the transphilic fraction retained
on XAD4 resin (Table 5).
Concentration of water extractable organic carbon is
substantially the same irrespective of the standing. How-
ever, differences were observed for other fractions (Ta-
ble 5). Results show that concentrations of hydrophilic
fractions increase with standing. The higher the standing-,
the more important the hydrophilic fraction is. Conver-
sely, WEOC-HPO and WEOC-TRA ratios decrease
when standing increases. M. Hassouna et al., and Peura-
vuori et al., reveal that WEOC-HPO fractions contain
most large size aromatic molecules [17,26]. These hy-
drophobic substances reveal the presence of humic-like
substances in waste produced by low standing people.
These results must be compared with those observed in
Table 4, in which C/N and organic matter proportions
were higher in waste produced in high standing house-
holds. This confirms that waste quality was different ac-
cording to the standing and that low standing wastes
contain a non-negligible portion of green waste. The
WEOC-TRA and WEOC-HPI fractions, however, in-
clude organic compounds of smaller molecular size with
simple structures and low aromatic content. Their pres-
ence confirms the hypothesis of a relationship between
the standing level and waste quality. As mentioned above,
it is indicative of a higher consumption of meat in the
high standing population. Nevertheless, these results
confirm that waste, especially from high standing, could
be composted.
3.4. Metal trace Element Analysis
Metal trace element concentration (Table 6) in wastes is
also a fundamental criterion for choice of waste valoriza-
tion. Presence of such pollutants in high concentration, in
household solid waste, may create adverse effects on
public health [15,25].
These concentrations are of the same order of magni-
tude as concentration ranges found in the literature [27,
28]. For wastes collected in Calavi, aluminum and iron
represent the most important concentration, irrespective
of standing. Lead concentration was under detection limit.
These results confirm those of S. Mohan et al. (2009),
and C. Riber et al, indicating that iron and aluminum are
metals most commonly found in household solid waste
[4,27]. Concerning differences between standing levels,
it was observed that Mn, Cu, and Cd were present in the
same concentration. In the case of Zn and Cr concentra-
tions, they are always lower in low standing than in high
and medium standing. Aluminum and iron contents were
different in high compared to medium standing. The
highest proportion of iron was observed in high standing,
whereas the highest proportion of aluminum can be seen
in the medium standing. This tends to confirm that low
standing wastes are different, reflecting great differences
between high and medium standing on the one hand, and
low standing on the other hand.
Specific wastes present in the two higher standing lev-
els probably increased the presence of metal trace ele-
ment in household waste. Therefore, sorting household
waste would lead to a significant decrease of metal pres-
ence. Composting of household solid waste after sorting
could be the most appropriate method of waste manage-
ment in Abomey Calavi.
4. Conclusions
Study of waste composition is an important step in se-
lecting strategy for waste management. Results of this
study have highlighted size characteristics and typology
of waste per social standing level. They provide infor-
mation on the average daily waste generated per capita in
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. JEP
Characterization of Household Solid Waste in the Town of Abomey—Calavi in Benin
Table 5. Average concentrations in WEOC of solid wastes and proportions of different fractions obtained by separation on
XAD8 and XAD4 resins.
High standing Medium standing Low standing
WEOC (mg·C·l1) 9.98 ± 0.97 9.88 ± 1.13 10.10 ± 1.05
WEOC – HPI 49.83 ± 0.80 31.05 ± 0.62 18.85 ± 0.41
Fractions(%) WEOC - HPO 19.24 ± 0.46 34.94 ± 0.65 36.42 ± 0.49
WEOC - TRA 29.04 ± 0.64 30.57 ± 0.56 40.28 ± 0.59
Table 6. Metal concentration in waste according to standing.
High standing Medium standing Low standing Urban solid waste min -max
Al 4.88 ± 0.21 7.17 ± 0.26 5.94 ± 0.16 4 - 9a
Fe 7.14 ± 0.36 5.27 ± 0.37 5.58 ± 0.51 5 - 11a
Mn 0.16 ± 0.01 0.18 ± 0.01 0.16 ± 0.01 0.15 - 0.25a
0.17 ± 0.01 0.21 ± 0.01 0.09 ± 0.01 0.3 - 0.6b
Cd 2.37 ± 0.31 1.62 ± 0.29 1.81 ± 0.36 0.2 - 0.4b
Cr 95.95 ± 8.06 102.19 ± 8.01 70.44 ± 4.24 80 - 100b
Cu 14.52 ± 0.94 13.58 ± 0.88 12.53 ± 0.36 0.15 - 0.3b
Ni 44.01 ± 2.36 46.78 ± 3.32 32.22 ± 1.37 40 - 50b
BDL BDL <BDL 0.25 - 0.50b
BDL: Below Detectable Limit = 12.71 µg/g. a [27]. b[28].
These results have confirmed relationship between
social standard of living and average ratio of daily waste
generated by person. Metal trace element concentrations
were not very significant in the household waste studied;
however, large quantities of plastic bags are identified
indicating that a policy of plastic waste recycling is re-
quired. A high rate of organic matter proportion is a good
reason to suggest household waste valorization via com-
Characterization of organic matter after extraction fol-
lowed by fractionation on ion exchange resins enables a
better understanding of water extractable organic matter
and different sub fractions. A study of these different
fractions will be a matter for deeper analysis, in particu-
lar for better organic-matter composting and metal sepa-
ration at source.
5. Acknowledgements
Authors are grateful to Robert Di Rocco and Laurent
Vassallo for their technical assistance. They are also
grateful to the Franco-Beninese cooperation for financial
assistance through their program to support the reorgani-
zation and harmonization of higher education. English
corrections were made by Valère Lounas and Meredith
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