Ain’t No Mountain High Enough

Plastic Pollution in the World's Most Remote Places
What evokes warm thoughts and good old memories when thinking of a 1960ies soul song, loses its fascine when put into quite a different context: plastic pollution. In 1862 the so called Parkesine, a material deriving from cellulose found in the plant’s cell walls, was invented by Alexander Parkes. Parkesine was classified as the first plastic material. Almost a century later, in the 1950ies, mass production of plastics started and quickly spread all over the world. Millions of types and shapes of objects, products and containers were built from this new substance. Previous materials got replaced and packaging was added, even where it wasn’t necessary. A new industrial sector was born and with it a new product: disposable packaging.

From the highest top of the mountain, to the lowest ground of the sea, scientists have found alarming amounts of plastic and microplastic - even in locations which are impossible for us humans to reach. Plastic, a substance that is found all over the globe, in every corner of the earth. 

 

nudo Magazine - Pollution & Mass Tourism on Mount Everest

 

Mass Tourism Polluting Mount Everest
Mount Everest in the Himalaya mountains is the tallest summit of the world and once one of earth’s most elusive locations. Since May 1953 when its peak was reached for the first time, a lot has changed. Today Mount Everest is a popular destination for extreme climbers, attracting hundreds of people during the year. Pictures captured of an overcrowded mountain, showing people queuing in lines to get to the top, recently went viral. An expensive excursion, which often is part of the to-do list of passionate climbers.

Humanity has left its traces, even at an altitude of 8848 meters: cans, plastic bottles, straws, food packaging and discarded climbing gear. All that, left behind in order to facilitate the ascent and to reach the top as light weighted as possible. Nature lovers that left a heavy environmental footprint on the mountain region. In such a life-threatening environment, one’s everyday principles and habits don’t seem to count.

More than the concern about getting on top and back down alive, climbers are now expected to bring back their trash. In 2014 the country’s tourism ministry announced that every member of an expedition must return to base camp with at least 9 kilos of trash - the average expected amount of garbage created by an individual during an expedition. Otherwise the climbers deposit, a forfeit of 4.000$, will be kept. With this rule, authorities try to avoid additional new trash to be left on the mountain.

nudo magazine - Pollution in the worlds most remote places - Mount Everest

However, only a recent cleaning campaign took care of trash that was left behind for decades and that had turned the mountain into the world’s highest garbage dump. The “Everest Cleaning Campaign” started in April 2019 and can definitely be considered one of the most challenging and ambitious clean-ups in history. In 45 days a 14-member team of volunteers, assisted by an army helicopter, collected more than 11 tons of garbage. 

Continuously trying to protect Nepal’s mountain region, a ban on single-use plastics went into effect in January 2020. Part of the restrictions are plastic bottles as well as any plastic item less than 30 microns in width. Aiming at keeping the mountain clean and at restricting the tourist’s impact on the environment, local officials will work hand in hand with Trekking companies, airlines and the Nepal Mountaineering Association.  The single use plastic ban is planned to be followed by an awareness campaign about plastic pollution this year.

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