A Load Of Rubbish At The Science Museum

We all know that a household can create a fair amount of recyclable and non-recyclable waste, but how much does a massive institution like the Science Museum create and what do they throw out? Artist Joshua Sofaer, with the help of volunteers, has spent 30 days sifting and sorting all of the rubbish from the museum. The contents are now on display at the museum and prove to be revealing.

Much of the waste is predictable including a significant amount of paper, aluminium cans, old exhibition displays, a lot of batteries and all the cooking oil from the cafe. Glass is ground into sand for construction use and even sewage is compacted into sludge cakes and then digested by micro-organisms.

The few items that can’t be recycled are incinerated rather than going to landfill. This does make the exhibition a pseudo-advert for the museum’s eco-credentials, though we’d expect nothing less than optimal recycling by the Science Museum.

The most fascinating part of this display is what people have thrown away. We were shocked as to how many functional pens and pencils were binned and especially bizarre is the large repository of disposed medicines — there was even a used pregnancy test (negative in case you were wondering). There were many items you expect were accidentally lost such as valid credit cards and even a few banknotes, including a 20 pound note.

Though there are some useful insights within this exhibition we fear its position in the basement gallery at the back of the museum isn’t going to help draw in the crowds. It doesn’t have the instant appeal of other adjacent exhibits and when we went at peak time on Saturday it was sparsely populated.

The Rubbish Collection is on at Science Museum until 14 September 2014. Admission is free. Also still on at Science Museum are the excellent mythical oddities in Stranger than Fiction.

For more art to see in London, see our August listings

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