Fourteen Nepalese volunteers collected three tons of garbage from Mount Everest in the first two weeks of their clean-up. The government-sponsored initiative is an effort to reduce growing amounts of garbage on the world’s tallest mountain. Nearly one-third of the garbage collected was taken by helicopter to recycling facilities in Kathmandu, while the remaining trash was sent to a landfill in the Okhaldhunga district.
“The clean-up campaign will be continued in the coming seasons as well to make the world’s tallest mountain clean,” Dandu Raj Ghimire, Chief of the Nepalese Tourism Ministry, told Agence France-Presse. “It is our responsibility to keep our mountains clean.”
In 2013, the Nepali government implemented a deposit system, requiring every climbing team to bring back 18 pounds of trash per person or lose $4,000 USD. Even despite this expensive deposit, less than half of the hikers returned with garbage.
In February, Chinese base camps in Tibet reportedly closed their doors to tourists, limiting visitor traffic to just climbers. In the last 65 years, 4,000 people summited Mount Everest, with 807 in 2018 alone. Thousands more hikers and tourists visit the base camps at the bottom of the famous mountain yearly. With climbing season kicking off around April, the problem of trash remains a rising concern on both the Chinese and Nepalese sides of the mountain.
The rising temperatures is causing ice and snow to melt, revealing garbage that was previously hidden. Climbing guides and sherpas say the trash problem gets worse as you get closer to the 29,000-foot summit, likely because exhausted and oxygen-deprived climbers welcome the lighter load that comes with leaving things behind.
Under the melting snow, the volunteer clean-up crew has collected tents, climbing equipment, oxygen tanks, bottles, cans, human excrement and even four bodies of missing climbers.
The crew hopes to collect at least 10 tons of garbage by the end of their six-week volunteer clean-up effort.