Municipal solid waste management continues to be an environmental health burden in many African cities. Overwhelmed with the magnitude of the problem, city authorities tend to seek out ‘environmentally friendly’ but costly "win–win" technologies via public-private partnerships with firms often from the North, yet these technologies may be inappropriate for the local conditions. While the authorities' intentions may be laudable, the approach may be born out from an empirical vacuum. Using case studies from Accra, we illustrate how investments in new solid waste management technologies may well be ill-fated if the requisite waste stream composition data does not exist to justify such investments. We also highlight the importance of recognizing the innovations of "informal" waste pickers and legitimizing them with the formal system. Until the evidence – along with appropriate institutional and financial instruments – show favorable conditions for investing in advanced waste management technologies, authorities in African cities would do well to consider integrating proven innovations taking place in their own "backyard."