Culture 3 min read

Nepal is Banning Single-Use Plastics in the Everest

Image courtesy of Shutterstuck

Image courtesy of Shutterstuck

Many of the items we use every day are made of plastic, including water bottles, plastic bags, food packaging, cutlery, and others. And, to make things worse, most of these items are disposable or single-use plastics.

Meaning, these objects are only meant to be used once.

Only about 9% of all plastic is recycled each year, and the rest becomes litter clogging the oceans, or turn into plastic rocks and pebbles.

Unfortunately, these single-use plastic items have also reached Earth’s highest summits in the Himalayas.

Single-Use Plastics in Everest’s Death Zone

The human body is designed so that it functions the best at sea level. But, we’re still capable of climbing and summiting the world’s tallest natural structures — mountains.

Since Edmund Hilary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay first braved Mount Everest in 1953, thousands of climbers have followed suit.

Each year, hundreds of people risk their lives in their attempt to scale the world’s highest and most famous mountain. And hundreds, including expert mountaineers and Sherpas, have also lost their lives in Everest due to the extreme weather.

Their bodies are still there, littering Everest’s “death zone.” A reminder of their fearlessness and the mountain’s grandeur. Now serving as grim guideposts for climbers, it’s almost impossible to bring the corpses back down.

But don’t think like this would deter people, mostly amateur climbers, from giving it a try!

However, in their treacherous journey to the top of Everest, this new generation of climbers leave all kinds of single-use plastics.

The heavy death toll over the years plus the plastic pollution highlight the issues that come with the commercialization of Everest.

The Nepalese authorities have retrieved 11 tons of trash along with four bodies whose identities remain unknown. According to Agence France-Presse (AFP), a new law will now ban the utilization of single-use plastics in the Nepal side of the Everest region.

Expected to go into effect January next year, the ban includes all plastic bottles and plastics materials less than 30 microns in thickness.

“If we start now, it will help keep our region, the Everest and the mountains clean long term,” a local official told AFP.

Local authorities said they would collaborate with hiking and trekking companies, airlines, and the Nepal Mountaineering Association to enforce the ban. But, they didn’t specify what’s the corresponding penalty for violating the new law.

Other initiatives have been launched in the past to reduce pollution in the Everest.

For example, climbing teams were once required to pay a $4,000 deposit before they can climb. They could only get the amount they deposited back if each member of the team collected and brought down at least 18 pounds of trash.

However, the operation wasn’t that successful as only about half of the climbers could bring down the required amount of waste.

The Everest climbing season is too short, about a week during May from each year. The 2019 season saw a record 885 people summit Everest, on both its flanks in Nepal and Tibet. Unfortunately, eleven people failed to make it back alive.

Besides being the world’s highest and largest open-air graveyard, there’s no doubt that Everest is also turning into the world’s highest garbage dump!

Read More: Prosthetics Better Than Human Limbs: Double Amputee Summits Mt. Everest

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Zayan Guedim

Trilingual poet, investigative journalist, and novelist. Zed loves tackling the big existential questions and all-things quantum.

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