Hazardous Travels. Ghost Acres and the Global Waste Economy
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About Hazardous Travels

The DFG Emmy-Noether Research Group Hazardous Travels. Ghost Acres and the Global Waste Economy investigates structures and dynamics of international hazardous waste trade since the 1970s. The team, consisting of three PhDs and one head of research, works with an asymmetrical comparison of "ghost acres" case studies from North America, Germany, Ecuador, and India. It seeks to understand how the system of the global waste economy simultaneously relied on structures of "voluntary exchange" of toxic materiality as well as "garbage imperialism" and environmental racism.

The project works with two concepts identified as fundamental to the functioning of the global waste economy post-1970s: (1) hazardous waste mobility and (2) emergence of “ghost acres” in the aftermath of the environmental turn. Moreover, the project postulates that after industrial countries’ 1970s environmental turn, nationally and regionally distinct waste regimes emerged and facilitated the exchange of toxic materiality within the global waste economy in the first place. One country's toxic waste become another country's recycling or secondary material. Western and non-Western ideologies of nature informed moreover, diverging practices of the use of nature in waste disposal schemes.

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Research Projects

Each PhD project investigates one case study situated at points of friction between different waste regimes, be they based on different economic systems as with the two Germanies, different stages of economic development as with emerging economies such as India or western and non-western concepts of nature as in the case of Ecuador. The PI’s study investigates the different systemic stages of the relationship between ecology and economy from an international and global perspective by following the emergence and development of the global waste economy and the trade in hazardous waste as a whole.

As there is no "ultimate" sink for hazardous waste, understanding the dynamics of the global waste economy might help find a solution for, instead of a continuous relocation of, the problem. Lessons learned from this history could influence tomorrow’s policies by providing the basis for models of best practice.

Contact: simone.mueller@rcc.lmu.de


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