Exhibit transforms trash into art to promote waste reduction

They say one person’s trash is another person’s treasure. Well, in Trenton, one person’s trash is another person’s art. A new exhibit called “Scrapped” has transformed more than 7 billion pieces of garbage into breathtaking works of art. It’s presented by the BSB Gallery and TerraCycle, a global waste management company based in Trenton.

“There’s an Abraham Lincoln made out of cigarette butts,” said Lisa Pellegrino, business development manager for zero waste at TerraCycle. “Garments that you see here out of Doritos packaging and things that you would never think. It’s this idea of recycling, upcycling, repurposing. It requires a certain amount of creativity.”

Pellegrino says the art is a conversation starter, a way to get the community talking about waste, recycling and human behavior. One way they’re doing that is through presentations that foster discussion.

Terracycle founder and CEO Tom Szaky is the visionary behind the project. He says he’s fine putting himself out of business in a world without waste.

“Our mission is to eliminate the idea of waste, right? And that placement of the word idea is really intentional and brilliant, in the sense that there’s no such thing as waste, just misplaced resources. And this whole exhibit, it’s just incredible to be immersed in the community, have these members here appreciating the art and sharing their own stories of how they have re-imagined everyday items,” Pellegrino said.

Even the building itself is part of the story. Built in the 1900s, it was once a bank that fell into complete disrepair. At one point it was falling into the streets of Trenton. But it’s been restored, and it now serves as the perfect backdrop to the exhibition.

“The Trenton Historical Society picked up the building. They said this is a historical landmark. This was the first skyscraper in Trenton,” said Aine Mickey, curator at BSB Gallery. “We’re right in downtown Trenton as well, so this was a pretty big deal for this area, and for the history of not only Trenton, but also architecture. This is a beautiful space.”

Mickey curated the “Scrapped” exhibit and included descriptions of the trash that was used in each piece.

“We have whole huge, portraits made entirely of found beach plastic. It’s exciting to kind of watch people breeze through, and then they’ll stop at one piece. And they’ll have to look at it for a while, and they’ll say, ‘This is made of cigarettes?'” Mickey said.

“I love when people see something in something else, so that just really excites me,” said Sally Willoughby with Philadelphia Dumpster Divers.

“It was great being in a circle of people who all think deeply about this, so it leaves you very hopeful,” said attendee Nadia Akbar.

The exhibit will be open to public until April 13.

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