Throwaway – a History of European Trash!

Written by
Jim Sharman
September 8, 2023

‘Throwaway’ is an international exhibition project that unearths the hidden history of waste across Europe, while simultaneously highlighting its significance as a marker for social change. The exhibition’s stories display the profound changes in how we have dealt with rubbish throughout the years, casting light on the way we think, or don’t think, about waste.

Starting at the time of the industrial revolution, ‘Throwaway’ takes us on a journey through to wartime scarcity, towards the surge in post-war consumerism, and ends with a focus on today’s global mismanaged waste crisis.

By looking into the past, the current criticisms and resounding calls for change become even more relevant and meaningful. This carries special significance in light of the launch of the Baltic Sea Cleanup’s ‘Save Our Sea’ campaign, which of course concludes on World Cleanup Day 2023, 16 September.

Organized in conjunction with Estonian initiatives such as World Cleanup Day, ‘Throwaway’ also offers a variety of content co-curated by no fewer than 10 European museums:

The exhibition itself was launched in Brussels, but additionally, trash stories from Belgium, Estonia, Austria, Germany, Romania, Slovenia, Italy, Poland, Latvia, and Denmark can all be discovered in Throwaway’s digital portal. Read, watch, play, and discover the changing and surprising nature of rubbish!

In addition to the main topics of ‘Throwaway’, Eesti Rahva Muuseum’s ‘Encounters’ exhibition, also addresses the topic of trash at the local Raadi airfield. And, even though Tartu is far inland, the story of how environmental activists cleaned the nearby lake has been included in the virtual exhibition. The museum also just announced their intention to activate a cleanup around Raadi lake in Tartu for this year’s World Cleanup Day!

Continuing in the marine-based context, additional spin-off exhibitions include the story of ‘Sup It To The Bin!’, now open at the Museum of Recent History, Celje, Slovenia.

Further information on the whole ‘Throwaway’ initiative is available from Kristjan Raba, the Chief Coordinator of Partner Relations at the Estonian National Museum.

A new exhibition in real and virtual space, mapping the story of trash in Europe from the Industrial Revolution to the global mismanaged waste crisis it helped create. Read more below!
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