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Throwaway

The history of a modern crisis

18 FEBRUARY 2023 - 14 JANUARY 2024

Rubbish. Perhaps the most visible and physical aspect of the looming environmental crisis.

‘’Throwaway’’ is a project that unearths the hidden history of waste in Europe while simultaneously highlighting its significance as a marker of social change. Starting with the industrial revolution, ‘’Throwaway’’ brings us on a journey through wartime scarcity, the surge in post-war consumerism, and finishes with today’s insurmountable waste crisis. It displays the profound changes in how we have dealt with rubbish in bygone years, and the way we think, or don’t think about waste. By looking at the past, it makes current criticisms and the resounding calls for change relevant and meaningful. 

The ’’Throwaway’’ project includes:

 
Photograph © Mandy Barker
 

Project overview

Exhibition section 1: Did you say rubbish?

The “Throwaway’’ exhibition explores the issue of waste in Europe from a historical perspective in four sections. First up: Did you say rubbish?

From resource to refuse (1800–1945)

At the beginning of the 19th century, Europe experienced rapid population growth and as a result a much higher production of goods. This also meant higher quantities of waste, which were often creatively used to produce new goods, sometimes, even with the incentive to sell them.

Throwaway Europe (1945–today)

After the Second World War, a much larger part of the population could afford consumer goods.

Living with(out) rubbish

The final section of the exhibition explores what is today called the ‘4Rs’: reduce, reuse, recycle and repair, confronting them with practices that were common sense through time.

Local Participatory Process

This exhibition is about rubbish - perhaps the most material and the most palpable aspect of the environmental crisis. Therefore, those who handle it have something to say! The exhibition research was broadened beyond archives or academic sources, to go into the field and learn from the experts.