Looking at the formalization of solid waste management in Lagos, Nigeria, this paper seeks to re-embed the concept of informality within institutional structures of political confinement, as well as in the situations in which exit is negotiated from the waste infrastructure. It examines how waste congestion in the West African metropolis has translated into a higher degree of political confinement and the occlusion of exit strategies in the waste sector. Through an empirical study of the city’s state-recognized and alternative waste channels, it looks at the new political instruments deployed in order to secure impermeable waste channels managed by state-recognized actors. Such instruments have had a stark impact on the control of the waste sector as well as on that of monetary flows extracted from the management and situational mobilization of solid waste. The intrusion of institutional boundaries in the waste sector has pushed workers to renegotiate their positions amid new constraints, mobilizing new discourses to negotiate the tolerance of their activities. While leaks in the waste infrastructure are negotiated on an ad hoc basis, the limitations imposed by the Lagos state on exit strategies have triggered political instability and demand the development of new forms of political mobilization.