Object Graveyards: The Afterlife of Everyday Things

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The world is rife with ‘stuff’, and the simple fact is we’re producing new homes, vehicles, gadgets, gizmos and other designs faster than we can get rid of the old ones. Tires, airplanes, bicycles and cell phones don’t just magically disappear once they outlive their usefulness. Sometimes they’re gathered together and turn into recycled urban trash art, photographed as trash or stripped down and recycled, and sometimes they’re just left to sit and rot for decades on end. Much like abandoned buildings and cities, these places can haunt the collective memory. Here’s a look at the afterlife of everyday objects, piled into staggering mounds that resemble nothing more than cemeteries for stuff.
[Also See: 24 Ghost Cities & Abandoned Towns | Image Gallery]

Abandoned Airplanes

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(images via: Artificial Owl)

When U.S. military airplanes need to be repaired or are just too old to fly, many of them end up in the Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Center, or AMARC, in Tucson, Arizona. Some of these planes are restored to operational status while others are broken down for parts. Seen from above, the planes make beautiful patterns in blue and white against the earthy brown backdrop.

Sea-Unworthy Ships

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(image via: Google Maps + Fogonazos)

The ‘Ship Cemetery’ of Nouadhibou Bay in Mauritania contains more than 300 wrecked ships that languish, rusting and falling apart, throughout the harbor. Mauritanian harbor officers reportedly took money in exchange for allowing ship owners to abandon their property. Nouadhibou is one of the world’s poorest cities, and people actually live in many of the ships that line the beaches.

Toasted Tires

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(images via: techinfo)

Tires are one of the most ubiquitous waste materials on earth. In the USA alone, about 300 million tires are scrapped or dumped every year. They tend to be dumped in mountainous piles that collect water and serve as mosquito breeding grounds. Some of them are recycled – through a burning process that creates huge amounts of toxic air pollution, oil and heavy metals – and others just waste away in landfills.

Crashed Cell Phones

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(images via: The New York Times, Technology Review)

Electronic waste, or e-waste, is the fastest growing part of our municipal waste stream. We have a rather un-earth-friendly habit of replacing electronics like cell phones, computers and televisions before we really need to, sending millions of these chemical-laden items to landfills and so-called ‘recycling centers’ where they really end up getting dumped in countries like China.

Cell phones have a rather abysmal recycling rate, with only about 1% ending up at recycling facilities like this one where they are processed to recover metals that are then used to make more electronics. Of the remaining 99% of discarded cell phones, some are reused or refurbished, but most end up in landfills.

Kaput Computers

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(images via: Greenpeace, tech republic)

The average life span for computers in developed countries is just two years, and for peripherals like keyboards and mice, it’s even shorter. Computer e-waste is a huge problem, and many old computer parts sit gathering dust in storage facilities for years or are exported to Africa and Asia where they leak chemicals that contaminate the water and soil. There are a few sophisticated computer recycling operations, like the one run by HP, that melt these items down in a smelter or recover parts for use in new products.

Worn-Out Wires

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(images via: Greenpeace, Treehugger)

Wires are among the e-waste that has turned dumping grounds like Guiyu, China into carcinogen-packed death pits. Phone cords, speaker wire and network cables are just a few of the items that sit in massive tangled piles. Children, attracted to the bright colors, are often found playing with them.

Outdated Televisions & Monitors

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(images via: Treehugger, ban.org, Times of Malta)

Consumers are being warned to beware free electronic waste collection events that call themselves “environmentally responsible”. While you might think your old TV is going to be disassembled and recycled into new electronics, more often than not, the electronics gathered at these events are simply exported and dumped. It’s especially important to ensure that televisions don’t end up in landfills or dumping grounds, because they contain lead and mercury. A list of responsible television and computer monitor recyclers can be found at www.e-Stewards.org.

Busted Bicycles

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(images via: Glen’s Pics, Plastickitty)

When people get tired of their old bicycles, they often can’t be bothered with finding a responsible way to dispose of them. So, they end up abandoned in big bicycle graveyards like these ones in Albuquerque, New Mexico and Inokashira Park in Tokyo, Japan. Sell it, donate it or find some creative new use for its parts instead.

Rusted Tanks

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(images via: people corporation, Future Perfect)

On the outskirts of Kabul, Afghanistan there’s a massive collection of abandoned Soviet battle vehicles left behind after the failure of a massive eastern bloc military occupation of the country in the 1970’s and 1980’s. The Soviets left in a hurry and couldn’t be bothered to find a way to get broken-down tanks back home, so now they sit, partially stripped and covered in graffiti. Afghanistan has few recycling facilities, so this cemetery of tanks will likely remain where it is for many more years as a reminder of the Russian invasion.

Radioactive Vehicles

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(images via: militaryphotos.net)

So, what did they do with all the helicopters, tanks, cars, trucks and construction equipment that was contaminated after being used in the cleanup of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant disaster? Nothing, as it turns out. They’re all sitting in a field surrounded by razor wire about 15 miles from the accident site. They were only meant to sit for a few months until they were safe to use again, but the wind blew more contamination onto them. Now, you’re supposed to wear a decontamination suit to even get near them.

Abandoned Cities, Buildings and Wonders of the World

7 Abandoned Wonders of Asia
7 Abandoned Wonders of the European Union
7 Abandoned Wonders of America
7 (More!) Abandoned Wonders of America
7 (Even More!) Abandoned Wonders of America
7 Abandoned Wonders of the Former Soviet Union
7 (More!) Abandoned Wonders of the Former Soviet Union

[Also See: 24 Ghost Cities & Abandoned Towns | Image Gallery]

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