Analysis of Value and Power in Kampala's Solid Waste Recycling Infrastructure
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Solid waste recycling is emerging as an important solid waste management (SWM) option and a mechanism of sustaining urban livelihoods. This study sought to analyze value and power in Kampala’s solid waste recycling. The study invoked the notion of Heterogeneous Infrastructure Configurations (HICs), Urban Political Ecology (UPE) and Situated Urban Political Ecology (SUPE) theoretical frameworks to understand non-conventional waste recycling systems with a specific focus on paper and plastic waste. The study characterized actors engaged in solid waste recycling, explored the power relations involved in the economic materiality of waste and how power relations reconfigure the everyday practices of actors. This study deployed an ethnographic and case study approaches to understand the deepened configurations of waste recycling. Snowball sampling techniques were used to select respondents from the target population with a range of data collection methods including in-depth interviews, participant observation and field notes. Economic surveys of recycling enterprises were conducted to reinforce and supplement data collected. Data was generated on the actors, economic benefits and costs, relational politics and the everyday dynamics of solid waste recycling in Kampala. The study established the diverse state and non-state urban actors involved in solid waste recycling with complex power relations based on questions around reconfiguring and reconstructing infrastructure as a valuation of waste materials and as an alternative to solve the waste problem in the city. The Economic Benefit Cost Analysis (EBCA) indicate a benefit cost ratio of 2.2 and 1.4 for paper and plastic waste recycling respectively implying that recycling yields positive economic benefits making it valuable and motivational to many. The study further established that the people-centred solid waste recycling infrastructure is politicized around knowledge, capital, social networks and space as actors struggle to appropriate and control waste materials. Such dichotomies of power cut across the everyday waste dynamics hence compelling actors to diligently leverage their position in solid waste recycling through persuasion, resistance, submission, collaboration, specialization and manipulation as a way to reconfigure the lived practices of actors in Kampala’s solid waste infrastructure. The study concludes that though the materiality of waste takes place amidst relational contestations, the everyday realities of solid waste recycling in Kampala have potential to improve SWM if integrated in the city’s SWM system. Moreover, these diverse experiences and everyday practices potentially offer grounds for theoretical constructs in cities in Africa and Global South at large. It is therefore suggested that decision makers to consider integrating sociotechnological facets of the everyday practices around waste recycling towards developing an appropriate and sustainable SWM system in Kampala city rather than focusing only on techno-managerial measures.