Trash Study

Broken Waste Systems

Trash accumulation in poor communities like Kibra, where Community Mappers is headquartered, is a major problem. The causes are many. The number of official trash collection points in Nairobi has been reduced in recent years, and trash in those locations is routinely left uncollected. Informal trash collectors also contribute to the problem by not using official trash collection points, and instead throwing trash in rivers, canals, and non-built-up spaces. Community members themselves often grow apathetic to the problem and leave trash in the streets, by the railroad tracks, rivers, and other public spaces. In open spaces where trash has accumulated into small mountains, private developers purchase these "empty" spaces cheaply in exchange for clearing the trash. This only contributes to the problem by leaving fewer options for poor households to dispose of their trash.

Broken and informal waste systems have always been a challenge in poor urban communities. Community members routinely organize clean-ups, but the underlying problem of the disfunctional waste system remains and trash re-accumulates.

To tackle this challenge and seek sustainable solutions, Community Mappers has implemented a series of studies and community/official engagements. The first study was a trash census of all waste piles that could fill a bin or larger in Kibra, Majengo, Mathare, and Kariobangi.

Community Mappers

Community mappers from Kibra, Majengo, Mathare, and Kariobangi have met regularly since early 2021 to train in data collection, collect field data, discuss research and engagement results, and plan meetings with city officials and informal/private trash collectors to solve systemic problems in waste collection. The above photo is from a Community Mappers meeting at the headquarters office in Kibra.

Youth Volunteers

Youth volunteers have been key to Community Mappers' research. Young people from our communities help decide which issues are a priority, contribute to research planning, perform data collection. As Community Mappers continues to grow, we stive to create opportunities for youth volunteers to also learn and apply new data analysis and mapping skills.


The Trash Study kicked off in 2021 during the COVID-19 pandemic. We therefore held hybrid online trainings in mapping protocols and tools using Zoom and smart phones. KoboCollect was used to map each trash pile GPS location and collect standard information about each pile inclusing it's approximate volume (could fill a trash bin, cart, half-truck, full-truck, or multiple trucks) and contents (wool bags, plastic bags, plastic bottles, glass, organic waste, etc). We also noted whether trash piles had evidence of burning. To ensure that we mapped the entire community, we used Field Papers to assign small areas to different teams and completed fieldwork in less than two weeks.

Email to request access to the dataset of trash locations and characteristics.


Community Mappers is now using the results of this study to facilitate community dialogues and actions to improve waste management, as well as meeting with local government and private waste collectors to find more/better locations for waste collection, and improve the frequency of waste collection.

Community Organizing