The exhibition Plastic Crush is about our relationship with plastic. We fell in love with a material that would improve the world, and then plastic became a life partner we can't seem to let go of. The second exhibition room focuses on the way we live with plastic. Six themes are discussed, each associated with an iconic plastic object.
In your free time
In the 20th century, people had more and more free time. The market for sporting goods and games was growing. Manufacturers responded by making cheap plastic musical instruments, sports equipment and toys: plastic meant fun for all.
Recording and distributing music on vinyl records caused a music revolution. Different genres of music could now be heard all over the world.
Behind the front door
Plastic in the home is not just about Tupperware containers, cling film, or garden chairs. Plastic in the home is also a means of self-expression and identity formation.
You can recognise people and their homes by the carefully chosen colourful and affordable designs. Mass products such as the Monobloc chair can be found all over the world, but are used differently from place to place.
In your closet
Over 60% of the fibres in our clothes are plastics. In the past, we knew exactly what natural materials our clothes were made of, but today, we have to check the label, which carries the names of synthetic fibres.
Polyester, for example, is the most widely produced plastic in the world. Plastic clothing was not always seen as an environmental pollutant. Between 1940 and 1990, plastic clothing, like the rain poncho, was perceived above all as very practical.
Those who travel often do so with plastic items in their suitcase. Often the suitcase itself will be made of this light, strong material. This made travel much easier, more accessible and more comfortable.
From the 1970s, plastic bags were printed with advertising and handed out with the purchase of groceries. In the 1990s, the environmental movement called for a stop to free distribution. More countries followed the example of Bangladesh, which became the first country in the world to ban the bag in 2002.
Body and mind
Plastic is often a lifesaver. It protects us against disease and calamities. The medical world benefits enormously from plastic devices. They are hygienic but often used only once. And so, hospitals produce immense amounts of plastic waste. In addition to medical protection, plastic also provides religious protection. The plastic water bottle is not only used to drink from but also to carry holy water.
Plastic changed the way people around the world make money. It is in the computers we use, the pens we write with, and the bikes we ride to work.
The ballpoint pen has helped people around the world learn to read and write. It was invented in 1938. An improved and much cheaper version was launched in 1950 by the entrepreneur Marcel Bich: the BIC pen. It is still the best selling pen in the world.
Illustrations by Marieke Meijer