Garbage show aims to make people rethink design

An exhibition making a global tour is aiming to make people rethink their relationship with garbage, and how our everyday items are designed.

Waste Age, which opens at Paris’s Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie on 5 December after earlier visits in London and Hong Kong, encourages visitors to think about the mountain of waste produced by our productivity-focused economies and argues for a sharp reduction in its volume. It presents a new generation of designers who are rethinking our relationship with everyday items.

Giving a second life to waste does not rule out aesthetics or innovation – far from it. The exhibition refutes the popular misconception that durable materials and objects must necessarily be tasteless or ugly, and reveals the formerly overlooked value of waste.

The exhibition consists of three parts:

  • Peak waste, the scale of the problem
  • Precious waste, changing our minds about value
  • Post waste, new ways of living

Peak waste

Intensive use of plastic items, everyday objects designed for single use, planned obsolescence: our waste production has increased continually over the last two centuries, especially since the mid-20th Century. This first part of the exhibition throws light on the mechanisms of mass production and consumerism.

Visitors discover the effects of overconsumption of plastics and other materials, and the resulting waste. With the aid of data visualization, photographs and disposable items, the exhibition reveals the extent of waste problems on a global scale and the urgent need to radically change our ways of thinking and consuming.

Precious waste

The excesses of our all-disposable economy produce huge quantities of waste: 90% of raw materials used to manufacture objects have become waste before they even leave the factory and 80% of the items produced are thrown away before they are six months old. Objects taken to dumps, plastic products collected from our oceans, clothing, food products, construction materials, electrical components… What if our trash were valuable?

In this second part, visitors are encouraged to look at waste differently through many projects such as the Adidas X Parley range, clothing made from vegetable matter and recycled plastic (such as Stella McCartney’s fashion) or the renovation of social housing in the Cité du Grand Parc, Bordeaux, by architects Anne Lacaton and Jean-Philippe Vassal. Through their achievements, designers reveal the value of certain kinds of waste. By changing our view of their appearance and use, they show that recycled materials are precious resources.

Post waste

New soluble polymers for packaging, clothes made from algae and orange pulp, buildings constructed using sustainable materials or designed with eventual deconstruction in mind… Is a waste-free future possible?

Today, designers, engineers and scientists are questioning our dependency on consumption and systematic appetite for novelty. In this third, final part, visitors learn about the new ways of thinking that visionary designers such as Samuel Tomatis and Tanguy Mélinand are exploring. Their approaches contribute to the elimination of waste, promote regenerative design and comply with the
principles of the circular economy.

Thanks to the efforts of designers working with materials such as mycelium, rice husks or agricultural waste, it is now possible to plan a future in which resources are managed in the long term and waste vanishes.