Image source: Wikimedia Commons
Single-use plastics have now been banned in the Everest region in an attempt to reduce the vast amounts of waste discarded by visitors. Mount Everest is the world’s tallest mountain above sea level at a height of 8,850 meters or 29,935 ft, situated between Tibet and Nepal.
Nepali authorities made the announcement following a record-breaking number of climbers and a collection of over 10 tonnes of trash so far this year.
Effective from January 2020, the new ban in Khumbu Pasang Lhamu rural municipality, home to Mount Everest and several other snow-capped mountains, covers all plastic of fewer than 30 microns in thickness as well as drinks in plastic bottles. This includes plastic bags, water and soda bottles, most food packaging and straws. To enforce the ban, local authorities will work with airlines, trekking companies and the Nepal Mountaineering Association. No penalties have been settled on for violation.
Environmentalists are concerned that pollution in the mountains is affecting water sources down in the valley. Trash accumulated on Everest since the first-ever successful summit 66 years ago is now appearing as glaciers melt due to global warming.
After Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay became the first people to reach the summit in 1953, the destination has become an attractive site for adventure junkies. The region receives an estimated 50,000 tourists annually, including climbers and trekkers. Aside from drawing additional income to the locals, the tourists also brought along with them about 300,000 pounds of solid waste, reports the United Nations.
Five years ago, Tibet and Nepal officials implemented a policy that required climbers to deposit a fee, which is refundable if they bring down a minimum of 8kgs of trash. The initiative, however, has reported limited success.
China retrieved 8.5 tonnes of waste in June 2014 and has plans to build environmentally friendly toilets and waste collection sites at Mount Everest.