Nepal to ban single-use plastics from Everest by 2020

Nepalese army personnel during collect waste bags from the Everest Mount at Namche Bazar, Solukhumbu district, Nepal 27 May 2019. [Narendra Shrestah/EPA]

The Nepalese government has introduced a ban on single-use plastic on Mount Everest from January 2020 in an attempt to cut down on the trash left by mountaineers in what has turned into the world’s highest landfill.

From next year, shops and visitors will not be allowed to sell or bring plastic bottles and packaging in to the Khumbu Pasang Lhamu rural municipality, home to world’s highest peak.

“If we start now, it will help keep our region, Everest and the mountains clean long term,” local official Ganesh Ghimire told AFP.

However, it is not clear what kind of penalties the authorities will be applying to those who disobey the rules.

The Nepal Mountaineering Association, which raises awareness about the environmental impact of the increase of tourist flows into the region, has supported the measure. The association also takes part in cleaning activities on trails and at base camps.

Nepal aims to reduce waste in a region visited by thousands of tourists every year.  During a two-month cleaning mission conducted by the government, 10 tonnes of garbage was collected, including empty oxygen cylinders, batteries, food wrappings and kitchen waste but also plastic bottles and cans.

This is not the first time the authorities try to reduce waste. In 2014, Nepal made it compulsory for Everest’s climbers to bring down at least 8 kg of trash, the estimated amount produced per person.

The measure, however, was not effective enough.

Banning single-use plastics is becoming a popular measure to reduce waste as it is one of the main sources of litter. Football associations, race organisers and many others are all working towards zero-plastic events.

In 2018, the European Union passed new legislation to ban a wide variety of single-use plastic products from the European markets.

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Overcrowded mountain

During this year’s climbing season, a record number of 885 people attempted to hit the summit of the Everest, with a death toll of 11 people.

The government wants to reduce the influx of people reaching the mountain to limit their impact on the area. Following the recommendations of an advisory panel, the cost of the permit needed to access the peak could go up to $35,000 from the current $11,000.

Overcrowded trails – a photo went viral last May as people queued at the top of the mountain – and global warming, make avalanches more likely to happen, making Everest even more dangerous than before.

According to a 2014 report by the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development, “the glacier area in the Nepal Himalayas is decreasing at a rapid rate, and individual glaciers are shrinking, retreating, and fragmenting”.

These changes, the text says “appear to be linked primarily with a marked rise in average temperature associated with global climate change.”

The reduction of the glacier area in the world’s highest mountain has potential implications for the whole region as the population’s water supply heavily depends on the thaw and the glaciers contribute to lowering the temperature.

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[Edited by Sam Morgan and Zoran Radosavljevic]

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