Poor road networks, inadequate financial resources and low levels of political will mean that many developing countries, especially their unplanned settlements, struggle with solid waste management. Recently, Informal Waste Pickers (IWPs) have been incorporated into waste management cooperatives by formalizing their operations as a strategy to improve the quality and efficiency of waste management in such areas. This study was conducted in Zingwangwa, an unplanned settlement in Blantyre, Malawi, to understand whether the formalization of IWPs into cooperatives could be effective and/or accepted as a way of managing Municipal Solid Waste in unplanned urban settlements in Malawi. Thirty-four IWPs in Zingwangwa were identified and interviewed using a structured questionnaire; personnel from the Blantyre City Council and middlemen were interviewed as key informants. We determined that IWPs experience challenges in all dimensions of their lives: low material prices with exploitative price fluctuations, negative public perception and a lack of transportation are a few of their struggles. Furthermore, a fear of decreased income, conflicts during proceeds sharing, free riding behaviors and an attachment to their independence mean that IWPs are unlikely to form a cooperative on their own though some would be willing to join if a third party initiated the formalization process.
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