Due to their size and rapid growth, large cities in developing countries are increasingly challenged by burgeoning waste generation. Waste management, however, has traditionally provided employment opportunities to the many urban poor in the informal sector. These traditional models, working largely in parallel with state-led interventions, are under pressure because they fail to address the waste management crisis. This failure, coupled with the lack of capacities of local governments, has paved the way for formal private sector participation. The authors examine the case of Delhi where a complex interplay of competing approaches have accompanied efforts of urban bodies, civil society and the private sector (informal and formal) at finding a sustainable working solution. The analysis of the complex relationship within the private sector players, and between private and public actors, provides novel insights into potential contribution of public-private partnerships for effective waste management in developing countries.