Naplavljeni plastični odpadki, Kanapou, ZDA, 2006, foto: © NOAA/Marine Debris Program / Stranded plastic waste, Kanapou, USA, 2006, photo: © NOAA/Marine Debris Program
Naplavnine s Hawaiijev, Muzej za oblikovanje Zürich, foto: 2010, © ZHdK / Debris from Hawaii, Museum für Gestaltung Zürich, photo: 2010, © ZHdK
Chris Jordan, Midway: Message from the Gyre, Serija od leta 2009, foto: © Chris Jordan, Courtesy of Christophe Guye Galerie / Chris Jordan, Midway: Message from the Gyre, Serie since 2009, photo: © Chris Jordan, Courtesy of Christophe Guye Galerie


Out to Sea?


The Plastic Garbage Project

Plastic bags, children’s toys, PET bottles, food packaging… since the beginning of the 20th century this mineral oil based product has advanced triumphantly through the world of consumption. Its ad-vantages are obvious: it is cheap, easy to process and can be given almost any qualities required. Our everyday lives are filled with plastic. But what happens to a plastic product at the end of its life cycle? 

A large proportion of these products – every year more than 6.4 million tons – lands unchecked in our environment and, ultimately, in our seas, which are gradually being transformed into a global plastic soup. Already today not a single square kilometer of seawater is free of pieces of plastic. Although only a small amount floats around on the surface, sea currents have led to the formation of enormous plastic gyres. The largest of these is in the Pacific and has already attained an area greater than that of Central Europe. But is the sea actually the final destination? As standard plastic is not biode-gradable, it gets broken up into increasingly smaller pieces and enters the food chain. And so, at the end, we find the garbage back on our plates, with alarming consequences for our health.

The exhibition turns the focus on the end of the design history of useful objects: the center of the exhibition Out to Sea? and the symbol of the ecological catastrophe is an installation of plastic flot-sam from the world’s various seas. Cooperation partners collected the plastic debris in cleanup cam-paigns on Hawaii, in the North Sea and the Baltic. The origins, life cycle, sense and senselessness of plastic products can be traced from the pieces displayed. Alongside puzzling objects from the fish-ing industry we find familiar everyday objects such as plastic cups or toothbrushes that show clear signs of having drifted around in salt water and of their encounters with sea creatures.

In addition the exhibition illustrates the background to the problem and the fatal impact on the seas, animals and humans. The most widely used plastics are presented; questions about consumption, health hazards, microplastic, material cycles or bioplastics are spotlighted. Additionally local and international efforts at finding a solution, such as reducing, recycling, reusing, are shown. These are intended to cause us to reflect and, ultimately, to take action.

MAO has prepared an accompanying exhibition with a focus on artificial materials and the properties of these materials presented through the selection of plastic items from the museum collections of industrial design. In the field of restoration and conservation plastic presents a major challenges, because it is a relatively new material. Because museums want to preserve historical items, they could use the research and knowledge from ecology and nature-preservation. 

Accordingly this exhibition places special emphasis on the education program. Publications, websites, studies, films and projects are presented.

Following the exhibition in Zurich the show was already presented in 17 cities all over the world, among others in Germany, Hong Kong, Morroco, Finland and Denmark.

An online platform created for the exhibition provides in-depth information about the show, the wide-ranging education program, and the most important themes in relation to plastic. Learn more.

Exchange also takes place on the FACEBOOK page 

The exhibition by Museum für Gestaltung Zürich
Curators: Christian Brändle in Angeli Sachs, Museum für Gestaltung Zürich
Curators at MAO: Špela Šubic and Nikola Pongrac

The project and the touring exhibition that follows it are being carried out with the support of the Drosos Foundation.


Exhibition and accompanying programme supported by

MAO programme is funded by Ministry of Culture of Republic of Slovenia.


Pot na Fužine 2

Entry fee

Admission >>


13 Mar: Plastics: Trash or Treasure?


We reserve the right to change the programme!

+386 1 548 42 74

For the media >>


Museum für Gestaltung Zürich