More than five tons of garbage – gas cylinders, ropes, tents, preserves and plastics of all kinds – were picked up in May on the Nepalese side of Mount Everest by an expedition set up by the French NGO Montagne et partage.
“We have collected 5.2 tons of waste,” Gérard Clermidy, president of the association, told AFP, lamenting that Everest deserves its nickname “the world’s biggest dustbin.”
“We had to leave five more tons that were visible, and there are many more that are not seen in the crevasses,” he says.
With this expedition, the NGO wanted to sound the alarm on the virtual absence of waste management on the high summits of Nepal and more widely in this country of nearly 30 million inhabitants who has no installation Waste treatment.
Shipments are supposed to carry 8 kg of waste per person and a small portion of the ascension permits must finance the cleaning of the base camp, but the controls are failing.
Moreover, “to reduce the waste from the intermediate camps, the Sherpas are now asking for bonuses,” explained the leader.
Two thirds of the waste collected was at the base camp, at over 5300 meters, where, at the height of the May climbing season, about 2,000 mountaineers and sherpas live together.
“We were surprised to find as much waste at the base camp where the Pollution Control Committee of Sagarmatha (name of Everest in Nepal) clearly does not fulfill its mission,” Clermidy said.
The remainder was collected under difficult conditions in the intermediate camps, the last of which, on the 4th, is about 8000 meters.
“We had a bad surprise at camp 4, where the expeditions, eager to go down after the summit, often abandon the tents and what’s in it,” he said.
The members of the Montagne and Partage expedition, four Frenchmen and a dozen Nepalese, spent 38 days on the slopes of Everest to collect as much waste as possible, which was then taken down on yaks.
Those that were recyclable, especially metal (gas bottles, cans, preserves, metal ladders) were transported to Kathmandu by helicopter and truck.
The other wastes (ropes, plastics, tent cloths, papers, etc.) were deposited in the village of Namche Bazar, where there is an incinerator. “Unfortunately, it does not work since the earthquake of 2015 and the waste ends up being burned outdoors,” explained the head of the association.
According to him, responsibility for this alarming situation on Everest is shared. “There are mountaineers who only think at the top, some agencies want to spend as little as possible and authorities who do not act,” regrets Gérard Clermidy.
Andre Blair s is the lead editor for Advocator.ca. He holds a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Toronto, and a Master of Science in Public Health (M.S.P.H.) from the School of Public Health, Department of Health Administration, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Andre specializes in environmental health, but writes on a variety of issues.