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But where do they dump the planet when it's full?

"This must be the junk capital of the universe."
Daniel Witwicky, The Transformers: The Movie
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In Speculative Fiction, one will sometimes find that entire planets get used as interstellar landfills. Implicitly this means that it is somehow worthwhile to launch refuse into space and take it to another planet, possibly one that is located in another solar system, in order to dump it there, rather than give it a push towards the nearest star, dump it on a nearby worthless, uninhabitable rock, or just recycle the stuff (not to mention massive and cheap energy sources that make such launches worthwhile in the first place — just getting into space in the first place is a lot harder than most people think).

In many cases, the landfill-planet will even be habitable, if only barely, for the convenience of the protagonists who will naturally end up spending time there at some point. Locals will usually be scavengers of some description, picking through the mountains of junk and/or freshly arrived loads for anything they can use or sell, which may or may not include the main characters. Hobo cities built out of scrap optional.

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For this trope to work at all, the setting must have very Casual (and VERY CHEAP) Interstellar Travel. There are, however, ways to harden this trope: make the planet in question a useless dwarf planet in a nearby asteroid belt, Ceres-like (delta-v to reach such a planet could be really low), used only to dump garbage of space origin from the same system, and equipped with dirty recycling industries that make it more efficient to fling refuse there, rather than into the star. Rarely will it ever be a recycling planet of some kind, which would justify moving massive amounts of junk there. For this trope on a smaller scale, see Down in the Dumps.


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Examples:

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    Anime and Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • 2000 AD: In the short strip Life Cycle, a child wakes up onboard a space station with no memory of how she got there. It turns out that it's inside of a giant waste plant.
  • Battlestar Galactica (1978): In issue #12, Starbuck, Boomer, and Athena, on recon patrol, stumble across Scavenge World, a planet composed entirely of spare parts and inhabited by alien scavengers. They are captured and brought before the throne of Eurayle, the leader of the scavenger "family." Meanwhile, the Galactica is buffeted by an unexpected Cylon attack. The Cylons are momentarily averted, and the Fleet arrives at Scavenge World. Learning of the Galactica's situation, Eurayle makes a proposal - she will use her powers of the mind to free Commander Adama from the Memory Machine if she can receive Lieutenant Starbuck in return. Starbuck eventually agrees to her offer. After the Cylons are defeated, Starbuck stays behind with her while the Colonial fleet moves on. Starbuck escapes from Scavenge World and returns to the fleet in issue #19. Eurayle pursues the fleet in issue #20, and Starbuck and Apollo meet with her. Starbuck agrees to fight her in a duel to the death. Eurayle wins, but after she leaves it is revealed that Starbuck faked his own death. The Scavenge World ship that Starbuck used to escape winds up giving the Colonials the coordinates to Earth and the series ends with the fleet making a hyperjump to their final destination.
  • In Star Wars: Allegiance, the Resistance has made camp on the garbage planet of Anoat.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures: Morbus is a garbage planet within Dimension X, where Krang is banished by Cherubae.

    Films — Animated 
  • The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part: The planet Duplo is covered in piles of Lego bricks that the Duplo aliens sort and bring to Watevra Wan'abi's temple.
  • In Romie 0 And Julie 8, the titular robots escape to the junk planet Trash-o-Lot and run afoul of an enormous Junk Monster named Sparepartski.
  • The Transformers: The Movie: The Planet of Junk. While entirely comprised of junk, it is not a sphere so much as part of a crescent, implying that it is an artificial world. Whether the Planet of Junk was built by the Junkions is never actually explained. In various other media, it's given different explanations for its state: in the original G1 comic book it ended up like that after it was hit with a worse energy crisis than Cybertron, while in IDW's continuity it was a strategic planet in the Cybertron Civil war and neither the Autobots nor Decepticons were willing to let the other side have it, resulting in someone (no one actually knows who except the guilty party, who may already be dead) setting off an Earth-Shattering Kaboom.
  • WALL•E: Earth itself has become a junk planet, and humanity has gone beyond the stars instead. Not a usual example of the trope, as Earth was not intentionally made such, but the visual aesthetic is the same.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Blade Runner: An early script opens on an "Off-World Termination Dump" where expired androids are buried. Three replicants that had been faking their deaths kill their dumpers and escape to Earth.
  • Soldier: The main character is dumped on a "landfill planet" because he was taken for dead.
  • Star Wars:
    • This is averted with Coruscant. The planet's waste is recycled or composted where applicable, and the truly hazardous, irreclaimable garbage gets packed into containers and shot into orbit, where it gets a subsequent heave toward the sun.
    • The Force Awakens: Jakku is a downplayed version. It's by and large a desert planet, but it's littered with wrecked machines from a major battle that took place there — including full-sized crashed Star Destoryers — and the local economy, such as it is, focuses on cannibalizing these for usable parts.
    • Star Wars Legends has a truly impressive number of worlds dedicated entirely to dumping industrial garbage in. Generally, these worlds tend to be entirely covered in mountains of rusted metal and wrecked machinery, and to have skies blocked out by unbroken clouds of smog and toxic fumes.
      • Lotho Minor, which features prominently in Star Wars: The Clone Wars, is roamed by tribes of biomechanical Junkers who scavenge its wastes for cybernetics to augment themselves with and by immense, smoke-spewing droids who "eat" the waste to incinerate it.
      • Raxus Prime became this by way of being a heavily overindustrialized world. Eventually, aside from immense factory complexes and sealed habitat areas, the planet's surface became a polluted hell of debris fields and lakes of toxic chemicals good for nothing but dumping further waste in.
  • Thor: Ragnarok: The planet Sakaar, which is ruled by the Grandmaster, is an alien scrapyard for derelict spaceships and is known as the "Trash Can of the Universe." Apparently most rogue portals or other teleportation mishaps in the Universe dump crap on Sakaar, to justify why so many important characters all end up stranded in the same location.

    Literature 
  • The Cyberiad features a substory about a piece of junk dumped into a landfill planet, triggering a chain reaction that leads to the creation of an AI.
  • Garbage World, by Charles Pratt, has asteroid be used as the dumping ground for the trash of the pleasure asteroids.
  • Red Dwarf: In the novelizations, the Garbage World on which Lister ended up stranded turned out to be Earth, after being voted such in a Eurovision Song Contest vote.
  • In one of the Starfleet Corps of Engineers stories, Rod Portlyn, a Corrupt Corporate Executive, turns the planet Phantas 61 into this.
  • Star Wars Legends:
    • The Thrawn Trilogy features the planet Caamas, which became this after it was utterly devastated by orbital bombardment. This was something of a charitable endeavour, as the Caamasi were at least paid for the use of their (now mostly useless) planet.
    • Also Raxus Prime, which features in several stories set during the Clone Wars, including the Boba Fett kids' books. The planet is used as a dumping ground for much of the galaxy's toxic waste.
  • "The Woman in Del Rey Crater", a short story by Larry Niven, involves humanity dumping most of their nuclear waste into a single crater on the Moon. This is actually explained pretty well: the radioactive waste is hideously dangerous now, but we may find a way to use it at some later time. The Moon has no environment to damage, is very sparsely populated, and is relatively easy for this near-future society to reach, so it makes an excellent landfill until recycling technology catches up.
  • The Worst Band In The Universe: Waste Dump B-19. Not only is it covered with garbage; it's infested with Man-Eating Plants that react to the slightest noise, making it the perfect place to exile rebellious criminal rock stars.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Doctor Who: "The Tsuranga Conundrum" begins with the Doctor and company searching around one of these, which according to the Doctor is in an entire junkyard galaxy, but those are quite rare.
  • Firefly:
    • The Expanded Universe has Beylix, essentially a giant storage yard for the United Reclamation company.
    • Also, to some degree, Boros.
  • Lexx: One episode visits one such world whose system's other planets were mutually annihilated by war, leaving a few hundred employees stranded on the landfill planet. It got worse.
  • Quark is set on an interstellar garbage truck, presumably headed to one of these planets.
  • Space: 1999 starts with the Moon being used as a nuclear waste dump.
  • Star Trek:
    • Star Trek Expanded Universe: A resurrected Kirk gets dumped onto a Borg planet used as a holding station for refuse before it's recycled. This is partially explained in that the Borg canonically have easy interstellar "transwarp", but it's still a Class-M planet (inhabited, even) when any random location in space would do, and far less efficient than just recycling on-site.
  • Star Trek: Voyager: In a different version of this trope, the Malon dump their dangerously radioactive "antimatter waste" (which is essentially nuclear waste — whatever's left after you do the energy generation that you can't use — but antimatter) in other regions of space, with less scrupulous captains not bothering to look for uninhabited ones. They do give a brief Hand Wave about why they can't just Hurl It into the Sun, though; doing so often enough would apparently cause a star to explode. Voyager tried to offer them waste-cleaning technology, but the one captain they tried this with declined because he didn't want to lose his waste disposal job, which is supposedly super lucrative.

    Tabletop Games 
  • GURPS: The Infinite Worlds setting features Empty worlds, parallel Earths where no intelligent life has evolved and some where no life has evolved at all. The latter are occasionally used as dumping grounds for hazardous waste. Nonetheless, Homeline's Greenpeace is still opposed to the idea.
  • HoL (Human Occupied Landfill) takes place on one of these planets. It also takes the concept one step further and turns it into a landfill for people: the planet is the Confederation of Worlds' only prison, who are dumped there alongside everything from candy wrappers to used nuclear weapons and left to fend for themselves.
  • Exalted: The Elemental Pole of Smoke, the lower fifth of Autochthonia — the world-body of the Primordial of industry and progress, a mechanical world bigger than some planets — serves as Autochthon's digestive system by collecting every piece of scrap falling down from the rest of his self, which gather there in immense fields and mountains of industrial cast-offs that are steadily eroded into slurry by ever-present corrosive gases and acidic rains and carried to the rest of Autochthonia for reuse. Despite all odds it's actually home to large communities of living creatures, mostly unlucky spirits stranded there with the garbage streams, Void-maddened gremlins, and degenerate tribes of human mutants capable of breathing the caustic air. The city of Xexas, which hangs upside down from the top of the Pole, lives mostly by sending scavenging expeditions to the bottom to recover useful artifacts and materials.
  • Rifts:
    • The Phase World setting has a unique justification: the planet in question is a deliberate social experiment to see what kind of civilization will emerge from such a place. It was set up by a Mega-Corp that operated across three galaxies, and a few dimensions besides, and collected debts that were sometimes measured in planets.
    • The Rifts megaverse builder sourcebook also has an entire Landfill dimension. Seems when you can use magic to open Rifts and just dump your garbage it has to all go somewhere.
  • Warhammer 40,000: Given the sheer scale and variety of environments, it's a given that some turn up. In a twist, they weren't dedicated trash planets, but rather "hive worlds" that are so overpopulated, overdeveloped and over-mined that they're literally out of obtainable resources, the surface covered in barren rock, polluted (if not boiled-off/siphoned-away) seas and sprawling arcologies that house billions. Many of these worlds subsist on simply scrounging for material in sub-continent-sized piles of industrial refuse, and mass recycling of all water and organic products. Yes, that includes people. The lucky ones that reach this state are able to trade off millions of people a year (or month, or week)) as labor or military in exchange for fresh sustenance, although they of course just squander it away just as quickly.

    Video Games 
  • In Battleborn, the Detritus Ring the home of the Rogues faction is this. When the remaining beings in the universe started clustering around Solus the last star, the asteroid belt became a safe dumping ground. Everything from massive dead capitol ships and moonbase-sized colony ships now float among the near-moon-sized asteroids throughout the ring. Along with miners hunting for mineral deposits and salvagers making a tidy profit off the spacecraft graveyard, it quickly became the perfect hiding spot for outcasts from the universe's remaining civilizations.
  • Borderlands: Pandora is half-junkyard, half-desert. It gets so bad around the settlement of New Haven that a cave system nearby, Tetanus Warrens, has many walls and ceiling made out of garbage and scrap metal.
  • Earthworm Jim: New Junk City, the first level, looks like one of these on the surface, but according to the game's documentation the level actually takes place in Texas.
  • In Escape Velocity, you can take random missions to dump garbage on uninhabited worlds.
  • The Force Unleashed prominently features Raxus Prime, which was so polluted from its long history as a manufacturing center that it eventually became this.
  • Gradius: Stage 2 Gaiden, named "Requiem for Revengers". As the level name suggests, you'll meet the partially-functioning wreckage of past Gradius bosses trapped in the junk.
  • Jazz Jackrabbit: Scraparap. Described by the game's manual as "the junkyard of the universe", Big Bad Devan Shell sent his scavenging underlings to loot the planet for spare parts with the objective of building his Mega Air Bases.
  • Lilo & Stitch (Game Boy Advance): In the first game, Stitch crash-lands on a junkyard asteroid called Scum, where he has to find a new spaceship to replace the one that was wrecked in his crash.
  • Mass Effect 2: A more reasonable version appears in the form of the planet Korlus, which is used as a junkyard/recycling plant for old space-craft, and only those that were near a Mass Relay. It's a dirty and dangerous task due to the various volatile chemicals released during the process. So it is less of a planetary junkyard, and more like a planet whose primary industry is ship-breaking. In an interesting twist, the in-universe fluff material makes it clear that spaceship junkyards don’t actually cover the planet's surface, they’re just its primary industry and main source of revenue. Korlus does have a reputation for being this trope, however, with the same fluff mentioning that a Council member dismissively called the place "a garbage scow with a climate" in a press conference. It's also noted for insanely high levels of crime (organized and otherwise) and an astronomical murder rate.
  • Obsidian: The third dream world starts in a planet-wide junkyard like this, dreamed of and built by the nanobot-controlling AI, Ceres. But, as surreal as everything else in the game is, it also has unusual features: like a giant metal hand containing a flying machine, a radio that makes you levitate, three moons based on all three dream worlds, and a massive "Frame in the Sky".
  • Ring Runner: Flight of the Sages: The Litter Glitter galaxy is where all the garbage produced in the nearby Galawynde galaxy ends up. The main environmental hazards are pieces of junk several times the size of your ship, and there's enough profit to be made in scavenging for salvager gangs to go to war over prime spots.
  • In Starcraft II, planet D-3794(aka, "Deadman's Rock") comes off as this. A lawless planet far outside of Dominion space, its surface is littered with debris and scrap, even near its two main settlements.
  • Star Fox 64 has the planet Zoness. Formerly a popular vacation spot of the Lylat System, Andross turned the place into his own personal wastebasket, which noticeably horrifies your team-members. It also appeared as though the copious amounts of toxic waste also mutated the native life on the planet. The usual Fridge Logic about whether it's really more economic to haul all this junk to another planet instead of recycling it or something is averted because Andross was pretty clearly doing it just to be a dick. By Star Fox: Assault, if the Zoness multiplayer map is any indication, it seems that the cleanup effort, which is advertised on billboards in the Corneria stage, was successful.
  • Super Mario Galaxy: Some galaxies have planets covered in garbage, which the Gearmo living on them want to get rid of it. As a result, Mario is asked to dispose of the garbage by either blowing it up with Bob-ombs or burning it with the Fire Flower in order to get a star as a reward.
  • Total Annihilation had one of those planets, the moon of one of the factions' capital planet. Good thing about the junk, too. The moon was all mined out to cover the surface of said world in a metal shell, so the wreckage was the only source of war resources.
  • Anomalies in Stellaris often turns these up, though they tend to be rocks that were not habitable to begin with. They are a good source of minerals for early empires.
  • Escape Velocity: Some missions allow the PC to earn money by transporting garbage to uninhabited planets and dumping it.

    Webcomics 
  • Freighter Tales is set on an interstellar sewer tank.
  • In Sluggy Freelance, an alternate universe that's a mash-up of Star Trek, Star Wars, and Alien regularly sends ships to a dimensional portal in deep space, where they dump toxic waste into whatever dimension happens to be on the other side.
  • In Sonichu, CWCville authorities work with NASA to dump contraband, such as tobacco and marijuana on the moon. The comic's author believes the government should do this in Real Life.

    Web Original 
  • The SCP Foundation seems to have found one on Jupiter's moon Io, where a portal periodically dumps immense loads of high-tech garbage and scrap — including stable transuranic elements — to be incinerated in the lava of one of the moon's volcanoes.

    Western Animation 
  • Ben 10: Vulpin is a galactic dumping ground totally devoid of all life that's not freakishly mutated by toxic wastes. For perspective, Wildmutt (think a vaguely canine gorilla with no eyes and a massive set of jaws) was sampled from the DNA of a creature native to the place.
  • Danger Mouse: Danger Mouse and Penfold trek to the moon in order to find the reason for the tides to overrun land on Earth (episode "Turn of the Tide"). There they discover the crater of Copernicus filled to the brim with junked spacecrafts.
  • Futurama:
    • One episode has the crew of Planet Express sent to destroy a ball of garbage that was previously thrown into orbit, Armageddon-style. The bomb, however, "misfires", and the Earth resorts to a different tactic: rolling up an identically-sized garbage ball and tossing it at the big ball of trash.
    • Another episode has the characters disposing of electronic waste on "the Third World" (of the Antares system).
  • Justice League: "War World" features a junkyard planet.
  • Megas XLR features one in the episode "Junk In The Trunk", which on the surface looks quite similar to Junkion from Transformers. May be coincidence, although given the number of Shout Outs to Transformers in the series...
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars has Lotho Minor as a textbook example; it's a smog covered world with mountain-high piles of garbage, animalistic scavengers, acid rain so strong it can melt metal, and an utterly insane Darth Maul calls it home.
  • The Transformers: Goo seems to be specifically purposed to catching floating garbage in space. That its full name is Goo 8739B suggests there may be a lot more like it.

    Real Life 
  • Real World example of the sort of thinking that leads to this trope: the Apollo astronauts jettisoned urine (they said it made a beautiful sight) but were required to store all feces and return it to Earth; apparently the idea of turds in lunar orbit was too much for the mission planners, despite the fact that such matter would quickly desiccate in the cold vacuum. This was actually fairly sensible, as fresh urine is pretty sterile, whereas excrement is full of living Earth microbes that we don't want to contaminate the rest of the solar system with.
  • The Soviets had plans to use their Energiya rocket to launch nuclear waste into a safe, planned solar orbit, but the plan came to nothing thanks to the fall of the USSR. This was less dangerous than it sounds because the Soviets sited their launch facilities in such a remote and lightly-populated part of their territory that they probably had less chance of hitting some innocent bystander with a failed rocket than NASA did with flightpaths aimed over the sea. Of course these days we can recycle nuclear waste a lot more easily than we could in the late Eighties anyway...
  • Having excessive amounts of space junk floating around is becoming a real concern for engineers. Generally, space garbage can either be burnt up in the atmosphere or tossed up into a graveyard orbit, which is beyond a geosynchronous orbit. This isn't a perfect solution, but requires less fuel in some cases, like for satellites in geosynchronous orbits. And that's where the space garbagemen come in...

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