Kampala has a complex set of regulations describing actors, rules and procedures for collection and transportation of waste, and requires waste to be disposed of at the landfill. Yet little of the city’s waste moves through this “formal system”. Building on wider scholarship on urban infrastructure and calls to theorize from southern cities, we examine recycling in Kampala as a heterogeneous infrastructure configuration. Kampala’s lively recycling sector is socially and materially diverse: it is comprised of entrepreneurs, public-private partnerships and non-governmental organizations, as well as a range of materials with different properties and value. We articulate how actors assert claims, obtain permissions, build and maintain relationships as they rework flows away from the landfill. We argue that recognizing socio-material heterogeneity throughout the waste configuration enables a clearer analysis of contested processes of claiming value from waste. We also demonstrate how these efforts have pressured the state to reconsider the merits of the modern infrastructure ideal as a model for what (good) infrastructure is and ought to be. Various actors assert more heterogeneous alternatives, raising the possibility of alternative modes of infrastructure which might generate better incomes and improve service provision.
- heterogeneous infrastructure configurations (HICs)
- Southern urbanism
- waste recycling