The ugly truths we bury in our garbage bins
Imagine it’s the year 2050 and the notion of waste no longer exists. You visit the Musée du déchet (Museum of Waste), otherwise known as “The MuD”, to show your kids the traces that your lifestyle used to leave behind.
But in the present day, waste still very much exists. Around 790 kilograms per capita in Luxembourg, to be exact.
How do we move from here to that waste free vision of 2050? That is the bold quest Jeannot Schroeder and Romain Poulles from the Luxembourg Centre for Circular Economy (LCCE) seek to take visitors on through an immersive experience at The MuD.
Going back and forth between the present and the future, the exhibition compels us to take a hard look in the mirror and face our throwaway culture.
Unlike many other exhibitions and projects addressing the waste society, however, the MuD provokes thought beyond the garbage bin. Because the issues of trash don’t stop with its disposal.
Confronting uncomfortable realities
While recycling and correct disposal of the things we no longer want are crucial steps in the waste management process, it doesn’t magically make them disappear, nor does it reverse the massive climate impact of their production or excuse the inhumane working conditions of the people that made the items.
“When we throw away clothes, we also throw away all the natural and human resources that went into making them”, reads a quote attached to a world map tracing the long production journey of one pair of jeans.
And correct disposal is far from the reality in most households: 74% of the trash that ends up in the Luxembourgish black bins, such as food or textiles, could be separated and recycled. Instead, they are burned with the rest, accumulating to 165,000 tonnes of lost recyclable resources every year.
These are just a few of many ugly truths you are confronted with as you make your way through the exhibition, which is split into several sections.
The caged and claustrophobic setting of the Home Sweet Home room puts into perspective what power the stuff we have laying around at home has over us. After all, we spend 153 days of our entire lives looking for misplaced things, as another ugly truth that decorates the walls reminds us.
Owning our overconsumption
The installations, made out of various materials found at recycling centres around the country, serve as proof of a society of overconsumption. Plastic bottles, clothes, electronics, toys and teddy bears unforgivingly point the finger at the visitor, holding us accountable for the trash that is invading every part of our lives.
From the most remote depths of the oceans to the deepest parts of the human lung – waste is found everywhere, and we can no longer turn a blind eye to it.
Which is why, just when it all starts to feel too hopeless, it’s time to travel back to the future. The final section once again asks us to imagine a waste free 2050, where the circular economy has replaced our present linear one and we have learned to manage, recover and reuse our resources better.
To help us embark on the journey, various local and international ideas are displayed: edible picnic cutlery, a 3D-printed lamp made from orange peels, biodegradable packaging made from mushrooms, toy subscription boxes, wallpapers made from recycled materials and more.
The problem, and the solution
The vast array of creative solutions on show are proof that the future starts today, and as much as we are the problem, we are also the solution.
As a testimony to its premise, the nomadic museum itself is made entirely from reusable and sustainable materials that leave no trace behind.
The first edition was held in the city centre, until it recently moved to the Centre Formida in Esch, where it will stay until October 2022.
The display has been put together by a group of young adults, in collaboration with the Youth & Work organisation.
The MuD is a brutally honest encounter with the negative consequences of our lifestyle. There’s something humiliating about walking around a room filled with things that were meant to be thrown away and forgotten.
Catalyst for change
But maybe that’s what makes the exhibition so powerful: when inanimate objects can call us out on our problem, it’s probably time to take them seriously. As you return to your Home Sweet Home and look at the stuff that surrounds you, you might find that it has started staring back at you.
A reservation must be made to visit the museum, which you can walk through either on your own or on a guided tour (recommended). Schools and other educational and youth institutions are encouraged to visit the exhibition, followed by a workshop.
Each visitor decides for themselves how much they would like to donate upon entry. For a free entry ticket, you can join a challenge and pick up pieces of trash through the interactive app Litterati.
Centre Formida, 121 Rue Jean-Pierre Bausch L-4023 Esch-Alzette
For reservations and questions, contact: firstname.lastname@example.org