The temporary exhibition Throwaway – The history of a modern crisis at the House of European History in Brussels ends on 14th January 2024. This unique exhibition and project explores the hidden history of waste in Europe. Visitors are able to reflect on the role of rubbish in our society and to understand better what this tells us about our past, present, and the future.
Rubbish. Trash. Garbage. From ancient times until the present humanity has had a complex relationship with, and many names for, what it throws away.
As explained by the exhibition organisers, ‘’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 the visitor on a journey through wartime scarcity, the surge in post-war consumerism, and finishes with today’s insurmountable waste crisis.
The displayed objects and materials show the profound changes in our society and how we have dealt with rubbish over time. By looking at the past, it makes current criticisms and the resounding calls for change relevant and meaningful.
Rubbish. Perhaps the most visible and physical aspect of the looming environmental crisis.
The ’’Throwaway’’ project includes a variety of forms – an exhibition in Brussels, a digital platform, a publication and a programme of different activities. The expo in the House of European History is divided in four sections, exploring the issue of waste in Europe from a historical perspective. First section is titled “Did you say rubbish?” and deals with changing and surprising nature of waste. Section 2 focuses on the growth of production of goods and rapid population growth which lead to creation of larger quantities of rubbish. This section is called “From resource to refuse (1800–1945)” and is followed by section 3 which deals with the period after the Second World War. This is a time when a much larger part of the population could afford consumer goods which in turn created the “Throwaway Europe” (1945–today).
The final, 4th section of the exhibition is titled “Living with(out) rubbish” and it explores what is today called the ‘4Rs’: reduce, reuse, recycle and repair, confronting them with practices that were common sense through time.
From ancient times until the present humanity has had a complex relationship with, and many names for, what it throws away. Visitors can discover ”Throwaway – The history of a modern crisis” at the House of European History until 14 January 2024.
For other inspirations from the neighbourhood, check our Guide to the EU Quarter in Brussels.