A Rubbish Night at the Museum

Photos.  Video.  Tweets on the night.

Do Manchester residents have to live surrounded by rubbish?
Or can we change it?

If you care about Manchester, our neighbourhoods, our communities, and our international reputation, then let’s talk about rubbish.


On 19th April 2018 the Manchester Museum hosted a unique community-led exhibition and event that set out to build a dialogue for change in Greater Manchester.

Taking up the Mayor Andy Burnham’s goal of a cleaner and greener city region, it set out to empower people across Greater Manchester to identify the issues around rubbish and waste management more clearly, to question current policy and institutional practice with more confidence, and to work together to make a practical difference in our residential streets and alleys.

It was about challenging the simplistic blaming of the public, and other people, and whole communities, and the narrow policy focus on public “behaviour change”.  It brought together residents, artists, local businesses and professionals across cultures to point out the multiple causes of rubbish in out streets and alleys, including failures by our institutions.

The ambitious proposal to Manchester Museum and the University of Manchester Sustainable Consumption Institute was:

to inspire the universities, the council departments and the contractors to rekindle the famously ambitious and pioneering spirit of Manchester, to work together with residents to build the intellectual, professional and practical capacity to address the global urban problem of rubbish, on our doorstep.


The number of waste professionals who attended the Rubbish Night event was impressive, from Greater Manchester Combined Authority, GM Waste Disposal Authority, private waste companies, consultants, social enterprises and more. The turnout from residents and community groups was impressive too. A total of 450 people registered on Eventbrite, and around 300 came on the evening. Many more visited over the next two weeks.

It therefore has the potential to become a moment of real change, but requires all of us to make sure it is.

So please – take a moment to consider and review the 24 ideas from the discussions. We will be in contact to stay connected, and to support and build strategies and priorities for action across GM.

Meanwhile, the shared advice for all of us locally was to:

  1. take the time to photograph and report problems to the authorities (keep a record of detail and report inaction and systems that don’t work to your Councillors),
  2. take a local lead on litter picking, to improve life and as a protest, and
  3. generate good doorstep interactions with your neighbours about how to improve things together.

Those are essential starting points for local change.

If we recognise that this is about managing rubbish, not ‘littering’, and don’t resort to the easy game of blaming others, the we can build communities around addressing this problem.

Link by using #GMTalkingRubbish on Twitter.

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