(Note: it's been raining here so I haven't been getting photos taken. I'll add them later once the sun returns.)
First of all, I don't have a lawn. What little lawn I did have has been replaced with a garden area. And what other grass grows on the farm is allowed to grow tall then get cut for either livestock feed or mulch. So it seldom looks like a lawn. But I do use lawnmowers, just not on a lawn.
I have a big riding mower that I use carefully to mow stretches of grass on other people's land. It is essentially harvesting mulching material, that is, grass clippings. Since I've had to repair it several times, I've become rather careful with it. It is a prima donna and only allowed to mow rock free, level, light grass. No stalks, branches, bumpy or rocky areas.
My other mower is a self propelled gas mower, the type people use for their lawns. This baby is a workhorse. And I admit that I work it to death. One of these lasts me a year before its literally worn out. Other than oil changes, cleaning the air filter, and keeping the blade sharp, they don't break. They just get used so many hours that they wear out the engine.
So if I'm not manicuring a lawn with it, exactly what does it do? Ok, time to cringe.
... Mowing down weeds including stemmy, stalky stuff.
... Chopping through underbrush including downed tree twigs
... Chopping up the pile of weeds I've pulled, turning them into fine material for composting
... Chopping up coarse plant material, again for composting.
... Sucking up and chopping the debris that the weedwacker hacked down.
... Reducing dried horse manure into fluffy material for compost.
... Sucking up fallen tree leaves out of the driveway.
These jobs are pretty hard on the mower, I agree. But I find a lawnmower to be dang handy to make compost and mulch. It's tons faster than hand cutting material, dragging it over to a shredder-grinder, feeding it through that machine, then forking it from under the machine as the job progresses. I've own and use both, and I can honestly say that the lawnmower is faster and easier.....and a lot cheaper.
So when a mower dies, it gets thrown away, right? Wrong. I scavenge parts. I can repurpose pieces for other projects. By the time I'm done there isn't much to throw away. And any metal that's leftover goes into the recycle bin.