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Waste waste Other

Mount Everest’s garbage problem has reached its peak

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by: Ariana M
mount everest s garbage problem has reached its peak

Mount Everest – the highest mountain above sea level, a lifelong goal for many climbers and one of the Seven Wonders of the Natural World. But it turns out these days it isn’t quite as magnificent up close and humans are the ones to blame.

In 1953, a famed explorer Sir Edmund Hillary was the first to reach the 8,848-metre peak. Since then, thousands of people have attempted the journey and it has led to a real tragedy – the once pure nature is now littered with trash and excrement that were left behind.

Mountains blue sky. snow mount everest

Garbage policies and fines

The situation is so dire that Tibet and Nepal have introduced special policies and fines to encourage the climbers to not only clean up their own trash, but also help collect what adventurers before them left behind. Both require each of the climbers to collect at least 8kgs(17,4 lbs) of trash and human waste, with Tibet fining those who fell short $100 for each kilogram not collected and Nepal retaining a $4,000 per team deposit that was paid before the climb.

While these penalties seem substantial, they are not substantial enough – many clumbers pay up to $100,000 for their journey and these fines just don’t make a significant dent in the budget. Another important aspect is that Mount Everest is one of the most challenging treks in the world where many have perished. This can make some climbers face a choice between spending their energy on getting down safely or bringing back their own trash and it is hard to argue for the latter.

While we’d think that things like discarded food packaging and gear would be the main problem, it is actually the faeces that are making the biggest stink. The excrements that were left behind in unlined ice pits get washed down by the melting snow and then start running down the slope. This not only creates foul-smelling piles of human waste, but also poses a health risk to those dependent on water from rivers that are fed by the glaciers. Unfortunately, even the human waste collected responsibly ends up in dumpsites that are only marginally safer.

Long-term solutions are in sight

Luckily, the problem of the “highest trash dump in the world” is not being taken lightly and while Eco Everest expeditions and teams of locals venture out to clean up the mountain, experts around the world are looking for better long-term solutions. Mount Everest Biogas Project is hoping to create a biogas plant that will convert human waste into renewable fuel. This will help clean up the dumpsites, minimize health risks for locals and provide them with a new, clean fuel for cooking and heating to reduce dependence on wood and thus curtail deforestation. This will certainly help make this area much more sustainable and preserve the beauty of one of the most breath-taking sights in the world (and will make it smell a lot nicer too!).

Have you heard of any other initiatives that are focused on cleaning up Mt. Everest? Or are there perhaps other mountains that are in dire need of attention? Share your thoughts with us in the comments!

Cover photo by: Mari Partyka

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