The empirical focus of this thesis is the issue of waste from its beginning to end in the context of Buenos Aires. In the thesis I thus follow the life of garbage through its different stages, from its place of origin to its place of destruction or recycling. While numerous scientists study consumption, very few study garbage. This is somewhat of a paradox since garbage is a logical corollary of consumption: all that is consumed eventually turns into to garbage. By focusing on the social life of waste the thesis examines the involvement and interconnectedness of different sets of actors who are involved in the production and processing of waste. I explore the practices, perceptions and relations of and among local cartoneros or recyclers; the middle class residents in a Buenos Aires neighbourhood; various NGOs working for a better, cleaner and safer city; as well as various government bodies. The first part of the thesis analyses cartoneros as contested category. Cartoneros make a decent living in the (semi)informal garbage economy in a context of economic recession, and some of them even do it with pride. Yet their association with garbage means that they are perceived as a polluted matter out of place, and cartoneros are therefore often stigmatised by other residents of the Argentinean capital. Occasionally, however, they are also met with signs of empathy and even solidarity. Among the middle class in particular, empathy towards the poor and a desire to be seen as ‘doing good’ creates a motivation to recycle, as middle class residents willingly let ‘their’ waste become the cartoneros’ livelihood. Lastly, the thesis adopts a more macro-structural perspective on waste management, and analyses the links and conflicts between the cartoneros and the local state and administration. As a consequence of weak implementation of environmental legislation and recycling laws, corruption and general state indifference towards the plight of the cartoneros, the latter are often deeply distrustful of the local state. While many cartoneros therefore prefer to get by without the state, poor administrative performance and a generalised distrust between the recyclers and the state create a number of barriers to a better and more efficient system of waster management in Buenos Aires.