Weird waste: From sandy syringes to space junk

 | Updated: May 08, 2022, 12:03 PM IST

From medical waste washing onto the beach in Pakistan to man-made debris orbiting the earth, the scale of waste and the strange shape it can take is a growing global concern.

Without urgent action, the world’s waste will increase by 70 per cent by 2050, according to a report by the World Bank.

Below are seven types of weird waste found around the world:


Medical waste such as syringes and vials of blood was found strewn across Clifton Beach, one of the most famous beaches in the Pakistani city of Karachi, on Monday.

The medical dump prompted calls for police to shut down the beach until it was clean and safe, and to find the culprits.


Space junk

Space debris, including broken satellites orbiting the earth, poses a threat to other spacecraft, according to NASA, which tracks more than half a million pieces of moving debris.

Scientists worry that small space fragments combining with large intact objects will cause ‘Kessler syndrome’ that would make space junk too dense to clear.


electronic waste

From Ghana to China, tons of electronic waste such as old computers are dumped in e-waste graveyards. The metals hold strong value, but extraction, and disposal of associated plastics by burning, can harm health and the environment.



Nike footwear has washed onto shorelines all over the world, including reports last year that 60 Nike shoes were found on remote Flores Island in the Atlantic.

According to research, the shoes may have come from 70+ containers that fell off a single ship. The World Shipping Council estimates that of the 218 million containers shipped worldwide each year, more than 1,500 fall overboard.


plastic firework debris

Nearly 2,000 kg of plastic firework debris was removed from a 26-mile stretch of beach in Washington state on the US West Coast in July, according to the Ocean Blue Project.

Scientists and environmentalists say chemicals from fireworks can pollute drinking supplies.


Rusted trains in Bolivia

Dozens of steam trains have been left to rust in a train cemetery near Uyuni in southeast Bolivia. The haunting sight of the old trains, empty since the decline of mining in the 1940s, has become a draw for tourists visiting nearby salt flats.



Ambergris, a waste product from the intestine of sperm whales, washes up on sea shores the world over.

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species labels it a waste product, and one with high value to the perfume industry.

The longer it floats at sea, the greater the "floating gold" costs, according to the Natural History Museum.