People who attempt to climb Mount Everest have to make a $4,000 deposit before their ascent that they only get back if they lug 17.6 pounds of garbage on their way down for proper disposal.
That’s because the Nepalese government is tired of the tallest mountain in the world being treated like a landfill, according to ABC News.
Mount Everest holds more than 60,000 pounds (or 30 tons) of garbage and human waste left behind by climbers over the years. Tents, cannisters, clothing, food packaging, and much more can be found scattered throughout the cliffs, marring the mountain’s vast beauty, and posing a threat to wildlife.
Now the Nepalese government, with support from volunteers, has launched a campaign to clean up the pollution.
Since April 14, teams of volunteers have collected an estimated 6,600 pounds of trash, and the military has chipped in to fly non-biodegradable garbage to the capital Kathmandu for disposal. The teams are aiming to collect 22,000 of garbage by May 29, the 66th anniversary of the first ascent of Mount Everest by Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay.
Despite advances in technology, Mount Everest remains a formidable challenge for experienced climbers. Only 5,200 people have made it to the top, and at least 302 people have died trying to reach the peak.
An additional 775 people are attempting the ascent this year, according to ABC News, and several thousand others have attempted the climb.
That such a small amount of people can generate such a vast amount of waste reflects the larger problem of waste management around the world — plastic waste in particular.
Globally, the world generates more than 300 million tons of plastic annually and only a fraction of this ever gets recycled. The majority of plastic ends up in landfills or polluting ecosystems. The world’s oceans, for example, absorb more than 8 million tons of plastic annually, which is comparable to a garbage truck full of plastic being dumped into a body of water every minute.
And it’s not just plastic that’s overwhelming the capacity of waste management systems. Everything from electronic waste to fecal matter is ending up polluting land and marine environments in ways that are hazardous to human health.
Mount Everest has long stood as a symbolic testament to human endurance. If the world’s tallest peak can be cleaned, then perhaps the rest of the planet can be rehabilitated as well.