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Raw Photos Of Landfills Show The Extreme Amount Of Waste Humans Produce

Where does all the trash go after you take it to the dumpster? The reality depicted in the images here showcase the current state of waste management, and how the items we discard are piling up all over the world.

Posted on November 3, 2021, at 3:42 p.m. ET

Aerial view of a garbage truck and a field covered in trash
Sergei Bobylev / TASS

An aerial view of the Aleksinsky Karyer solid waste landfill in the town of Klin, Russia, in 2018.

Thousands of diplomats and activists are currently convening in Glasgow to discuss the worsening climate crisis at the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26). Sustainability, pollution, and mitigation will be covered, and with that, this felt like a good time to look at all the things that go to waste.

1,825 pounds of trash per year: That's how much the average American produces, according to statistics by the Environmental Protection Agency, which tracks facts and figures of municipal solid waste. According to the agency’s findings, food and paper top the rankings for types of waste going into landfills.

Another big piece of the trash equation is plastic. Just last year, the US shipped about 1.4 billion pounds of plastic trash overseas. And according to a new report by the Bennington College, Vermont-based project Beyond Plastic, plastic production is quickly becoming a major source of greenhouse gas emissions. “If plastic were a country, it would be the world’s fifth largest greenhouse gas emitter, beating out all but China, the US, India and Russia,” the report states.

America certainly isn't the only culprit when it comes to overconsumption and needing new solutions to waste management, as these photos show the handling of waste in a variety of ways around the globe.

Mattresses are rolled and stacked in a pile in a warehouse in California.
Liz Hafalia / San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

Batches of outside mattress material are seen at Oakland's DR3 Mattress Recycling Center in Oakland, California, in 2016.

Thousands of tires sit in piles of sand in a remote area of the Middle East
Anadolu Agency / Getty Images

An aerial view of the tire graveyard, which threatens the environment and human health due to the dangerous components and durability of the material, located 160 kilometers away from the capital Kuwait City in al Salmi area, Kuwait, in August 2021.

Thousands of tires sit in piles of sand in a remote area of the Middle East
Anadolu Agency / Getty Images

The Kuwaiti government is seeking a solution to getting rid of disposed tires that have been accumulating for about 20 years.

A person is seen walking among garbage with a bag of trash on their shoulder and cows are in the distance grazing
John Wessels / AFP via Getty Images

A waste picker walks with a load of recyclable waste on her head in the Mbeubeuss rubbish dump in Dakar in July 2021.

Inside a warehouse trash is seen piled up filling the space
Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

A view of tons of garbage in a trash pit on April 2, 2021, in San Francisco.

Tyrone Siu / Reuters

Old cellular phone components are discarded inside a workshop in the township of Guiyu in China's southern Guangdong province in June 2015.

Luo Bo / Imaginechina

Aerial view of a garbage dump near Yellow River in Jiyang county, Ji'nan city, east China's Shandong province, in July 2019.

A young boy sits among trash in a landfill
Azwar Ipank / AFP via Getty Images

The son of a garbage collector rests as his father (not pictured) looks for items that can be resold at a landfill site in Alue Liem in Lhokseumawe in September 2021.

Metal is seen smashed and packed in a refuse site
Education Images / Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Close-up of crushed recycled scrap metal bales at a dump in Canada in 2015.

Person carries a child and walks among trash in the desert in South America
Martin Bernetti / AFP via Getty Images

A Venezuelan migrant searches a rubbish dump for clothes for her and her children in the Alto Hospicio area, on the outskirts of Iquique, Chile, in September 2021.

Hundreds of bikes are piled up in a heap in Japan
Charly Triballeau / AFP via Getty Images

Bicycles and bicycle parts are pictured in a landfill in Saitama on Oct. 11, 2021.

Broken plates are piled for recycling at a Fiesta Tableware site
Luke Sharrett / Bloomberg via Getty Images

Pieces of dinnerware that did not meet standards for retail sale or recycling in a landfill on the grounds of the Fiesta Tableware Co. factory in Newell, West Virginia, in July 2021.

A worker opens the back of a truck for trash to empty into a landfill
Sergei Bobylev / TASS

A truck dumping garbage at the Yadrovo solid waste landfill in the village of Yadrovo. On March 21, 2018, 77 schoolchildren sought medical care following an outburst of gas from the landfill.

Close up view of milk cartons and recycled containers in a New York facility.
Spencer Platt / Getty Images

Recycled milk cartons are viewed at the Sims Municipal Recycling Facility, an 11-acre recycling center on the Brooklyn waterfront in 2015 in New York City.

Landscape in Egypt shows mountains of trash in the distance
Alexander Farnsworth / AP Images

A public landfill out in the desert where the garbage is burned in Marsa Matruh, Egypt, in January 2020.

Close up view of medical supplies and waste in a landfill in India
Adnan Abidi / Reuters

Disposed medical waste lies on the floor of a landfill site during the coronavirus pandemic in New Delhi, India, on July 4, 2020.

Birds fly above a landfill as piles of trash are reflected in water
Avalon / Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Domestic refuse being unloaded from a truck at the Arpley Landfill Site in Cheshire, United Kingdom in 2018.

White mountains seen in the distance as birds fly over trash in the foreground
Ari Jalal / Reuters

Birds fly near garbage collected from an area that used to be a landfill and will be diverted into a green park in Zakho, district of Dohuk, Iraq, in January 2020.

Dozens of people wait as trash trucks empty waste at a landfill in South America
AFP Contributor / Getty Images

Guatemalan garbage collectors search for recyclable rubbish to make their living at the Municipal Sanitary Landfill, the largest dump site in the country, in Guatemala City in October 2017.

Two people are seen climbing a mountain of trash in India
Barcroft Media / Getty Images

A garbage collector at Okhla landfill picking up trash for a living amidst severe odor on Oct. 11, 2017, in New Delhi, India.

Trash spills into water in Lebanon
Patrick Baz / AFP via Getty Images

Garbage piled up on the banks of the Beirut River, which had been turned into a temporary garbage dump, collapses in October 2015.

Metal scraps taken from weapons pile up in a landfill in France
Francois Lo Presti / AFP via Getty Images

Destroyed weapons are pictured in April 2013 at a landfill near Lille in northern France.

A person climbs a mountain of trash in Mexico looking for items to sell
John Moore / Getty Images

A young boy is seen searching for recyclables at the Tirabichi garbage dump in 2013 in Nogales, Mexico. About 30 families live at the landfill, searching for recyclables to sell for a living.

Trash and recycling is seen inside a warehouse in Australia
Fairfax Media / Getty Images

SKM, a recycling company in Melbourne, has been declared bankrupt, and its six major warehouses are full of recyclable materials awaiting processing in August 2019.

A bulldozer works to put out a fire at a landfill in Spain
Europa Press News / Getty Images

Image of heavy machinery working to extinguish the fire at Zaldibar landfill on Feb. 21, 2020, in Pais Vasco, Spain.

Aerial view of a landfill in the Maldives with smoke rising from the garbage
Carl Court / Getty Images

Smoke rises from burning rubbish at a landfill site on the artificial island of Thilafushi in 2019 near Male, Maldives.

Additional reporting by Zahra Hirji.





A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.