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Plastics Unwrapped

Plastics Unwrapped Exhibit Topics

Plastics Unwrapped explores how material culture was changed—rapidly and perhaps permanently—by plastics. Learn what life was like before plastics, how they are made, why they’re so convenient to use, and what happens after we throw them away. 
The exhibition covers five (5) main topics:

Life Before PlasticsExplore what life was like before plastics at the Burke Museum's

What did we ever do without them? 
  • Real objects used before plastics:  containers, raingear, toys & pastimes
  • Plastics: The First 100 Years timeline
Additional online resources:


Science of PlasticsExplore the science behind plastics at the Burke Museum's

How are they made?
  • How most plastics are made
  • Cracking the code – what the plastic numbers mean
  • Is it recyclable?
  • New directions in plastics engineering
Additional online resources:

Health and PlasticsExplore

What are the benefits and concerns?
  • Plastic medical advances and prosthetics 
  • Avoiding phthalates and BPA
Additional online resources:


Waste and PlasticsExplore

Where do they go when we throw them away?
  • Why plastic waste sticks around
  • Informational sculptures featuring marine debris, electronic waste, plastic bags, water bottles and recyclables
  • Microplastics collections
  • Mammalogy specimen
Additional online resources:

Rethink PlasticsExplore

What can I do?
Plastics are popular for good reasons, but it’s like time to rethink how we use them. Solutions depend on everyone: consumers, producers, governments, scientists, and engineers. The best way you can reduce plastic trash is not to acquire it. Think “Do I really need that?” before you bring more plastic home. Rely on reusable containers instead. Reuse what you can; recycle the rest. And shop smart–look for products with minimal packaging, and safe, reusable, and recycled materials. Committed communities have shown that improvements are possible. Be part of the change in the place where you live.
Recycling resources:
Advocacy resources:
Plastics Unwrapped Pinterest Board
Explore better consumer options and other plastic-reducing ideas by following our Plastics Unwrapped Pinterest board.


Studio LabThe Plastics Studio Lab is a little science, a little art, and a lot of imagination.

Creativity and Learning
The Plastics Studio Lab is a little science, a little art, and a lot of imagination. Join us! Touch samples, try activities, and get some inspiration for reusing plastics in fun and creative ways. 

Get Involved

There are many ways to get involved!
We look forward to welcoming you to the Plastics Unwrapped exhibit! There are many opportunities to get involved and learn more about the topics covered in this exhibition.  Visit our “Get Involved” page for more details!