Careful followers of Everest news may remember an alarming bit of news from this past May when an effort to remove trash from the slopes of the mountain collected 11 tons of garbage. 22,000 pounds. The trash had been sitting there, piling up for decades. Empty oxygen canisters, human waste, food garbage, old abandoned clothes, and lots of plastic.

The cleanup clearly had an effect on local authorities who announced last week that they will ban single-use plastics on Everest beginning next year.

Everest draws a tremendous amount of visitors each year, not all there to actually summit the mountain. Trekkers, who hike as high as they feel comfortable to get a taste of Everest, contribute a lot to the local economy but also to the rubbish bins. Climbers are required to cart out their waste to earn back a deposit they leave to protect against litter; trekkers are not. Combined, tens of thousands of climbers and trekkers make trips to Everest each year.

This ban is aimed at some beverage bottles and thin plastics. Bags, wrapping, and anything else made of plastic thinner than 30 microns (0.03mm) will be banned. Also, no shops selling goods in the Khumbu Pasang Lhamu rural municipality will offer products that are affected by the ban. Water bottles are not part of the ban; soda and other drinks are the only bottled beverages affected as of yet.

“We are consulting with all sides about what can be done about plastic water bottles,” Ganesh Ghimire, the chief administrative officer of the municipality told CNN. “We will soon find a solution for that.”

Will this ban be effectively enacted? Hard to say. A similar attempt in 1999 was never properly enforced. But As of yet, no penalties have been announced for people caught bringing plastic to the mountain. But combined with new rules that, if enforced, will keep the numbers of climbers down relative to years past, this is one more step to restore some of the pristine wildness to the world’s tallest peak, sometimes called the world’s highest trash dump.

Photo: Mark Horrell

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