This article examines the commodity chain and value chain of half-litre water bags (referred to as ‘pure water’ or ‘sachet water’) in Niamey, Niger. We begin with a focus on the discarded bag and work backwards through the commodity chain to consumers, vendors and finally producers of ‘pure water’ to reveal the underlying power structures, cultural perceptions and assumptions that ultimately resulted in the discarded bag and landscapes of waste. We assert that the economic value of the plastic bag, largely assigned during the stages of its production, is based on four characteristics: the label, the temperature of the water, the time of year it is sold, and the apparent ‘purity’ of the water. We further demonstrate how characteristics of economic value are steeped in cultural perceptions and social relationships in Niamey. Using interviews with agents and actors at all levels of the commodity chain, we reveal how this local, hybrid system is connected to and affected by larger, global economic and political forces.