Claiming value in a heterogeneous solid waste configuration in Kampala

Hakimu Sseviiri*, Shuaib Lwasa, Mary Lawhon, Henrik Ernstson, Revocatus Twinomuhangi

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)59-80
Number of pages22
JournalUrban Geography
Issue number1
Early online date19 Nov 2020
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • heterogeneous infrastructure configurations (HICs)
  • infrastructure
  • Southern urbanism
  • waste recycling


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