In 2019, a record number of climbers on Mount Everest had resulted in an immense amount of trash left on the mountain, including abandoned tents and human waste that threatened drinking water. Budget expedition companies often cut costs by neglecting waste removal.
The high altitude, dangerously icy and slippery slopes, and bad weather at the highest campsite on Everest make it very difficult to bring down large items such as tents. This has left government cleanup crews grappling with how to clear the site. Some exhausted climbers, struggling to breathe and battling nausea, leave heavy tents behind rather than attempt to carry them down.
It is impossible to know exactly how much litter is spread across Everest because it only becomes visible when the snow melts. At Camp 2, the campaigners believe that around 8,000 kilograms of human excrement were left during this year’s climbing season alone. Some climbers do not use makeshift toilets, instead digging a hole in the snow, letting the waste fall into small crevasses.
The overflowing waste then spills downhill toward Base Camp and even villages below the mountain, contaminating the water source. Rising temperatures have thinned the glacier, leaving fewer and smaller crevasses.
Calls are being made for the Nepalese government to institute some rules to regulate how to dispose of human waste. Climbers could be required to use biodegradable bags that have enzymes which decompose human waste, but the bags are expensive and have to be imported from the United States.
The government is also considering scanning and tagging climbers’ equipment and gear, requiring all climbers to deposit $4,000 before their ascent and possibly not returning the money if they return without their items. The trash is creating danger for future climbers, and the littering amounts to desecration for the Nepalese, who regard the mountain as “Sagarmatha,” or Mother of the World.
If you’d like to learn more about better toilets, get connected and join us for a better resource use.