Mount Everest, the High-Altitude Rubbish Dump

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Mount Everest has turned into the world’s highest rubbish dump due to decades of commercial mountaineering. The number of big-spending climbers is increased and they pay little attention to the ugly footprint they leave behind. So far this year alone 600 people have scaled the world’s highest peak. As the number of climbers on the mountain has increased, the problem has worsened.

The well-trodden route to the summit of the 8,848-metre (29,029-foot) peak is littered by Fluorescent tents, discarded climbing equipment, empty gas canisters and even human excrement. Meanwhile, global warming, responsible for melting glaciers, expose the trash that has accumulated on the mountain since Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay made the first successful summit 65 years ago.

Until now many efforts have been made, Five years ago Nepal implemented a $4,000 rubbish deposit per team that would be refunded if each climber brought down at least 8kgs of waste. On the Tibet side, they are required to bring down the same amount and are fined $100 per kg. if they don’t. According to the Sagarmatha Pollution Control Committee, in 2017 climbers in Nepal brought down nearly 25 tonnes of trash and 15 tonnes of human waste.

The Everest industry has boomed in the last two decades. Inexperienced mountaineers are being drawn by low-cost expedition operators. This inexperience is exacerbating the rubbish problem. Operators need to employ more high-altitude workers to ensure all clients, their kit and rubbish get safely up and down the mountain.

Environmentalists are concerned that the water sources down in the valley are affected by the pollution on Everest. Presently, the raw sewage from base camp is carried to the next village, a one-hour walk and dumped into trenches. This then gets flushed downhill during the monsoon into the river.

Ang Tsering Sherpa, former president of the Nepal Mountaineering Association, is a dedicated rubbish collection team. His expedition operator Asian Trekking, which has been running “Eco Everest Expeditions” for the last decade, has brought down over 18 tonnes of trash during that time in addition to the 8-kilo climber quota.

It is not an easy job. The government needs to motivate groups to clean up and enforce rules more strictly. Last month, 8.5 tonnes of waste from the northern slopes was retrieved by a 30-strong cleanup team.