Unsustainable waste generation due to rapid urban population growth in Pakistan and Ethiopia is rendering municipal solid waste management (SWM) urgent. Uncollected waste spreads disease, threatening the health and well-being of residents, especially the poorest. Alongside technical issues in the handling of waste quantities, types and sources, this project aims to examine institutional dynamics and the role played by households and communities in integrated approaches to SWM. It seeks to explore the intersection of official systems with informal waste and recycling economies. A key focus is on policies such as decentralisation, the rise of private utilities, as well as the influx of migrants and refugees into the cities (who compete for access to waste sources and jobs) and their impact on the relatively stable but gendered and hierarchical control of waste work by micro-mafias and hereditary occupational status groups associated with dirty work.