Sustainability, Economics and Waste



The CSIR’s Sustainability, Economics and Waste (SEW) research group provides scientific evidence and decision support for the public and private sectors to enable sustainable development and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

We focus on providing evidence-based decision support to achieve SDG 12 (Sustainable Consumption and Production) and enable the transition to a circular economy. 

This includes a focus on all three principles of a circular economy, namely:

  • Designing out waste and pollution
  • Closing resource loops to keep products and materials in use
  • Regenerating natural systems




The SEW research group is an interdisciplinary team offering diverse skills and capabilities. These include: 

Social-ecological systems analysis and modelling

  • Systems dynamics modelling
  • Identification and evaluation of social-ecological system risks
  • Assessing systemic risks to business’ supply and value chains, supporting risk management and enhanced resilience


Policy & scenario analysis and guideline development

  • Policy analysis
  • Scenario analysis
  • Multi-criteria decision analysis (MCDA)
  • Development of roadmaps, action plans and guidelines for transitioning towards a green/circular economy



Environmental footprinting

  • Life cycle assessment (LCA), including screening studies, ISO-compliant studies, comparative studies and studies aimed at meeting PEF, EPD or EPR requirements
  • Life cycle sustainability assessment (LCSA)
  • Water & carbon footprinting
  • Material flow analysis



Environmental and resource economics

  • Economic valuation of social and environmental impacts (externalities)
  • Cost-benefit analysis (CBA)
  • Economics of environmental policy
  • Techno-economic feasibility assessment




We can apply our capabilities to a broad range of contexts and sectors. Some of our main areas of focus include the following:

Agriculture and food systems

Providing decision support for sustainable agriculture and food supply systems (including green and regenerative agricultural practices).



Assessment of alternative energy systems (including renewables, hydrogen and bioenergy).

Manufacturing and retail (including plastics)

Our recent work focused on providing evidence-based solutions for plastic pollution. This includes LCA studies aimed at assessing and comparing the impacts of plastic products (and of alternative materials), quantifying the environmental and economic impacts of plastic pollution and modelling the effectiveness of alternative intervention strategies.

To find out more, visit the #SolvePlasticsAfrica hub at www.csir.co.za/SolvePlasticsAfrica



Integrated waste management

  • Waste governance (development, assessment and review of legislation, policy and regulations)
  • Waste characterisations
  • Waste data & information
  • Assessing waste behaviour and behavioural change interventions
  • Economics of waste management
  • Assessing waste beneficiation opportunities




  • Supporting the transition towards sustainable tourism

Anton Nahman Smart Places
Anton Nahman
waste collection
Waste recycling
Plastic collection for recycling
Waste collected at sea

Related Information