Hazardous waste surrounds us. We may not realize it, but toxic, hazardous, and harmful waste objects are part of our everyday encounters. They form part of our daily routines of consumption, mobility, work, leisure, and travel. We could stumble across a hazardous waste story when watching the news or going shopping. Often these stories are hidden from sight, and more often than not, we also choose not to see or care about hazardous waste: the outdated batteries in our trash, our old cell phone in the drawer, let alone the consequences of all those plastic items that we accumulate.
The four blog posts in Trash Talks: Hazardous Waste and the Everyday comprise the first instalment in an ongoing series from the research group Hazardous Travels: Ghost Acres and the Global Waste Economy. In this instalment, we tackle our everyday encounters with hazardous waste material. Each post explores a different aspect of how hazardous waste is present in our everyday items and activities, ranging from the weather or calling the plumber, to going on vacation or taking a stroll along the beach. Hazardous waste is our everyday companion, whether we like it—or see it—or not.
The series opens with Toxic Floods: Let’s Talk about the Weather, in which Simone M Müller explores a hidden dimension of the flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey earlier this year—the flooding of contaminated Superfund sites and the risks this might pose to nearby residents. In the second post, Hazardous Cruises: Welcome to Toxic Paradise, Jonas Stuck discusses the dirty underbelly of the cruise ship industry, whose polluting fuels threaten the health of passengers and the very natural environment they go on holiday to see. Ayushi Dhawan‘s contribution, Mumbai Deluge 2017: Nowadays Rain Gods Have a New Tool—Plastic Bags! reveals the role that waste from plastic bags, in a context of wider urban planning failures, played in the Mumbai floods of August 2017. Lastly, Maximilian Feichtner and Theresa Leisgang take on the issue of waste left on Mediterranean beaches by refugees arriving by boat, in their post Lives Wasted—Garbage as a Forgotten Dimension of the European “Refugee Crisis.”