The Toxic Ship
The Voyage of the Khian Sea and the Global Waste Trade
- PUBLISHED: August 2023
- SUBJECT LISTING: History, Environmental Studies, History / Environmental History
- BIBLIOGRAPHIC INFORMATION: 266 Pages, 6 x 9 in, 7 b&w illus., 4 maps
- SERIES: Weyerhaeuser Environmental Books
- ISBN: 9780295751832
- Publisher: University of Washington Press
In 1986 the Khian Sea, carrying thousands of tons of incinerator ash from Philadelphia, began a two-year journey, roaming the world's oceans in search of a dumping ground. Its initial destination and then country after country refused to accept the waste. The ship ended up dumping part of its load in Haiti under false pretenses, and the remaining waste was illegally dumped in the ocean. Two shipping company officials eventually received criminal convictions.
Simone M. Müller uses the Khian Sea's voyage as a lens to elucidate the global trade in hazardous waste—the movement of material ranging from outdated consumer products and pesticides to barges filled with all sorts of toxic discards—from the 1970s to the present day, exploring the story's international nodes and detailing the downside of environmental conscientiousness among industrial nations as waste is pushed outward. Müller also highlights the significance of the trip's start in Philadelphia, a city with a significant African American population. The geographical origins shed light on environmental racism within the United States in the context of the global story of environmental justice. Activism in response to the ship's journey set an important precedent, and this book brings together the many voices that shaped the international trade in hazardous waste.
Authors & Contributors
Simone M. Müller is Heisenberg Professor for Global Environmental History and Environmental Humanities at the University of Augsburg. She is author of Wiring the World: The Social and Cultural Creation of Global Telegraph Networks.
Makes critical contributions to waste and discard studies, environmental history, and global environmental politics. Compellingly written, sourced and structured, it tells a hard-to-trace story that is fundamental to the history and politics of hazardous wastes.- Kate O'Neill, author of Waste
An important book that speaks to major issues about globalization and environmental justice. The public policy implications are significant.- Martin Melosi, author of Fresh Kills: A History of Consuming and Discarding in New York City
This compact volume is both a compelling yarn of the maritime migration of 15,000 tons of Philadelphia incinerator ash in the late 1980s and an impressively researched study of the ongoing problem of the international toxic waste trade. Müller never fails to see the big in the small in this strong addition to global environmental history.- J. R. McNeill, author of The Webs of Humankind: A World History
The Toxic Ship shows how and why incineration of Philadelphia's wastes shaped local environmental injustices and waste colonialism in multiple nations. Simone M. Müller's compelling history is an important contribution to contemporary debates about sustainable waste management practices.- Carl Zimring, author of Clean and White: A History of Environmental Racism in the United States
A deft philosophical and literary examination about what we throw away, where our discards go, who is harmed, and why, The Toxic Ship follows vessels that carry hazardous wastes but also carry the hazards of greed and racism as ballast. Müller's crackling prose and careful storytelling reveal how near-infinite wastes unto a finite planet leads to spatial, social, and economical consequences. An absolutely necessary book.- Kerri Arsenault, author of Mill Town: Reckoning with What Remains