Lusaka currently generates about 1,500 tons of waste per day but is facing longstanding problems in waste management. Only about half of the waste is collected by the Lusaka City Council (LCC), while the rest is dumped at various sites, often irregularly. In most parts of the city, waste collection is outsourced to private waste companies, while recycling is left to the informal sector. Waste regularly blocks the drainage system and causes floods and water-borne diseases and the littering of plastic waste has become an increasing problem across the city .
Lusaka’s official site for waste disposal is Chunga landfill, located in the north of the city. It was opened as a sanitary landfill in 2006 for a planned period of 25 years, with the financial support of the Danish development agency. It has since then received all kinds of waste, ranging from household and kitchen waste to medical, commercial, and industrial waste – about 500 tons daily . While there is no formal segregation system in place, numerous waste pickers search for recyclables of value (such as bottles, plastic, metals, paper) as well as for food and items they can use themselves. Over the years, however, the conditions at the site more and more deteriorated due to a lack of funding and improper management so that Chunga degraded to an open-air dumpsite. In 2013, Zambia’s Environmental Management Agency (ZEMA) alarmed that the poor conditions of the site risk the outbreak of diseases such as cholera and dysentery . However, also in the years after, indiscriminate and uncontrolled dumping continued and waste was overflowing into residential areas near the dumps. Waste was also dumped illegally at night, without any control. Nearby residents suffered from the constant stench that caused headaches, nausea, dizziness, and chest problems, and that the situation was deteriorating, also affecting communities in the nearby townships of Chingwere and Mandevu. 
In light of lack of employment and high poverty levels, waste picking is one of the most common informal sector activities that allows that the urban poor to make a living, but also comes with health and occupational risks and hazards. As of 2018, there were about 500 waste pickers at the Chunga dumpsite . One of them reported that she had been picking waste for the past 18 years and this had allowed her to send her children to school, pay rent and have decent meals, while the work also comes with challenges: “We experience very serious injuries sometimes but we still continue working because we need money at the end of the day” . Other problems come with fire outbreaks at the dumpsite, which also destroyed collected material, fluctuating demand in recyclables, and the shutdown of recycling companies, who are the main buyers of collected material.  Some of the waste pickers collect specific items such as cushions that are then washed and sold to carpenters who build couches; that way they could earn around 35 kwacha a day ($US 3.60). An 11-year old boy reports that he had been coming to the dump with his mother since he was a baby and could even find toys and clothes .
A 2017 study conducted by researchers of the University of Zambia noted that waste picking at Chunga dumpsite provided an escape route out of poverty, especially for numerous women who had no other ways to gain income and support their children. It was found that the majority of waste pickers had low educational levels and difficulties to find other work and that about half of them suffered from health-related problems from working at the dump, most notably respiratory diseases caused by smoke and dust and body pains from working long hours.  Some waste pickers have however managed to establish small businesses, such as 2012 founded social enterprise Recyclemania. It purchases materials from the informal sector, has provided waste pickers with an outlet for recycled waste, and been advocating for making waste picking a professional occupation .
There have been repeated attempts by the municipality to prevent waste picking, also because according to Zambia’s regulations on solid waste management, licensed waste disposal sites have to be “enclosed” and “secured” from waste pickers . In 2014, the Lusaka City Council initiated the building of a wall around the dumpsite to improve sanitary conditions and deter waste pickers from illegally entering the site. Waste pickers were even removed with the police force. They expressed their concerns over the measures and stated they would not know how to survive without working at the dump. Later they were permitted to access with authorization and were provided with protective clothing to prevent the spread of infections . As several recycling companies emerged in Lusaka and recycled material was even exported to South Africa, waste picking became increasingly profitable and more and more people came to Chunga. Waste pickers were divided into groups, each permitted to enter the site at different times of the week . In 2018, ZEMA again prohibited waste picking at the site to prevent the spread of a cholera epidemic, protecting the dump with security forces and noting that existing regulations were just in place to safeguard the health of the waste pickers .
The Waste Recyclers Association of Zambia objected hat the closure threatened the livelihood of waste pickers, as they had no more source of income. They demanded the municipality to adopt progressive measures that allow for recycling while protecting the health of the community, possibly by promoting separation at source schemes in which informal recyclers could be included . The association was founded in 2005 and has now 500 members, most of them women. Many of them have been working at the Chunga dumpsite since its opening . After meetings with the association and four recycling companies, which are highly reliant on waste pickers in their supplies and were therefore also affected by the announced ban, ZEMA was pressured to again permit waste picking at the dump, under the condition that recyclers would wear protective gear. It stated that it will continue monitoring the situation, and noted the successful efforts of waste pickers to organize: “As a regulator, we want to ensure that sustainable waste management is promoted here, so discussions have been held, and the waste collectors have also organized themselves” . Months later new controversies came up as it was found that waste pickers had stopped using protective clothing .
The problems of uncoordinated dumping continued at the Chunga landfill. Garbage truck drivers repeatedly complained that due to a lack of space inside the area they often had to wait long hours just to offload the waste. ZEMA noted that it was aware of the problems and blamed the local authority for failing to manage the site; it then also undertook legal action against LCC. The landfill management claimed that it had initiated measures to coordinate waste disposal and lamented that some waste pickers would continue to enter without permission, while others were paying a fee for accessing the site. In 2019, 50 trucks were stuck outside the landfill for two days as bulldozers had broken down and waste was blocking the access road to the dumpsite.  ZEMA recently also announced a ban on light-weight plastic bags and regulations to establish Extended Producer Responsibility .