Kenya’s fourth-largest city Nakuru (population of about 500,000) was once considered East Africa’s cleanest city but has recently experienced fast growth that put pressure on its public infrastructure and waste management. In a move towards decentralization, the municipality in 2006 contracted private operators and community-based organizations for waste collection, at a point at which the collection rate was under 30 percent. However, garbage woes continue as waste volumes have increased to 250 tons per day and the city’s dumpsite is considered hazardous while a lot of waste remains uncollected or irregularly burned or discarded. Especially during the rainy season, waste that is left in the streets or irregularly dumped is washed into the rivers or blocks the sewerage system, leading to an increase in water-borne diseases such as cholera. 
Most of the waste ends up at Gioto dump, which was established in 1975. Over the years, the conditions deteriorated, and waste regularly spread to the surroundings with rain and strong winds, causing problems for nearby residents who are affected by contaminated air and water. The County Government of Nakuru lamented that potential investors of recycling businesses had been pulling out immediately after assessing the Gioto area and that no alternative sites for relocating the dump could be found. Particularly problematic is the irregular dumping of medical waste, which caused injuries and infections, although the situation has improved after 2016 when a medical waste incinerator was installed. Also, plastic pollution has been an aggravating problem and among others contaminated Lake Nakuru National Park, where an estimated 20 tons of waste, mainly consisting of plastic bags, are annually fished out.  In 2013, Nakuru-based environmental activist James Waikibia initiated an online campaign against plastic litter and demanded a plastic ban. In 2017, Kenya eventually introduced such legislation that banned the use, manufacture, and importation of all plastic bags used for commercial and household packaging. 
The area of Gioto dump is also home to about 200 marginalized families, including many kids and elderly people, who often built provisional homes more than a decade ago and live from collecting food and recyclables, which can be sold. The community also keeps chicken and pigs, which are feed with organic waste from the dumpsite. One of their biggest concerns is limited access to health care, which is also problematic because they remain without access to clean water and sanitation, suffer from respiratory diseases from permanently inhaling toxic stench and are exposed to hazardous substances and high concentration of mercury and other heavy metals, increasing the risk of cancer. 
Although there is no information about the exact number of waste pickers in Nakuru, it is believed that thousands of people engage in waste picking – a part of them at the Gioto dumpsite, and many more in residential and commercial areas across the city as mobile waste pickers. A 2013 monitoring study by the organization Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing (WIEGO) has outlined the situation of waste pickers in Nakuru, which at that point were largely unorganized, although some – especially women – were increasingly part of cooperatives.  They collect a wide range of materials, such as metals (such as aluminum, copper, iron), plastic items and bottles, cloths (for example for pillow manufacture), glass, paper, bones (sold for example to animal feed producers), and food . With this work, waste pickers are able to sustain themselves and their families, as most of them had difficulties in finding formal employment. They nevertheless play a vital role in the recycling chain: most recycled materials ultimately end up in formal industries. As informal actors, waste pickers, however, take on disproportionately high risks and costs of modern chains of production and distribution of services. The study highlighted that their work contributed to the public interest in various ways, such as through providing employment and environmental health, contributing to security and the local and national economy, and through the strengthening of the local community. 
Waste pickers face a number of challenges, such as most notably unsafe and unhealthy working conditions, caused for example by toxic smoke and infectious medical waste, and harassment and discrimination by the public. One explained the latter with: “People see us and just begin laughing as if we are mad people! We are really discouraged and humiliated.”  Women also pointed to harassment by young male waste pickers, who would also sometimes steal recycled material. Economically they mostly struggled with fluctuating prices for recyclables, unfair practices by intermediary traders, who would even manipulate scales, and that their incomes were generally falling as more and more people started to pick waste. This leads to competition and sometimes even fights over the material. Additional problems come with disadvantaging public policies, as waste pickers are not only not recognized in the regulations but often also perpetually harassed by local authorities. Waste pickers explained: “You’ll be arrested, charged high fines, and if you cannot pay and sometimes even when you pay the fines, you are imprisoned.”  “You are also mercilessly beaten up.”  “The police should stop taking waste pickers’ materials”.  “Paying bribes is inevitable. That is the way you can stay working. You have got to oil the system.”  Moreover, they increasingly lose access to waste through privatization and lack access to necessary infrastructure. As it was found in 2013, waste pickers remained excluded from the formal waste management system, at a point when the city was prioritizing the further privatization of waste collection, the relocation of the dumpsite, and the promotion of a public-private partnership to produce fuel from the dumpsite. 
Among waste pickers in Nakuru, there have been small efforts to organize over the past decade. The Nakuru Waste Pickers Association (NAWPA) was formed out of several community-based organizations and local self-help groups, including a group at the dumpsite and others in specific neighborhoods. It has currently about 180 members and is a member of the Waste Pickers Association of Kenya (WAPAK), the national umbrella association. There is a regular exchange between waste picker groups and joint mobilization against the many challenges they face, as their rights are still not recognized.  A leader of NAWPA notes that they still have little voice and regularly face police repression and arrests if they protest – even though waste pickers are fundamental in waste management and in reducing the environmental contamination. 
In 2018, the county government announced a new program to improve waste management at Gioto dump, including plans to dump organic and recyclable waste separately so that fertilizer can be produced from the organic part. In 2019, rehabilitation measures took place at Gioto, and also the fencing and securing of the site was announced.  Local solid waste collectors have also urged the government to set up light recycling industries at the dumpsite, which, as they claim, could give employment to thousands of people, including the hundreds of people who still pick waste there .
Without the option to “stay home”, waste pickers at the Gioto dumpsite also continued to work during the COVID-19 outbreak – without any protective clothing and sanitizers, although Nakuru county has been spending large sums on an awareness campaign. Waste pickers reported that they had first not heard about the new virus but said that they are also used to inhaling dangerous fumes.  In May 2020, however, welfare organizations started to distribute sanitizer, food, and water – help that the dumpsite community rarely received before. One of the supporters said that waste pickers were risking their lives under horrible conditions, and further noted: “We were inspired by the resilience of these families who are working hard instead of begging or indulging in criminal activities.”