Transforming Everest Garbage into Crafts

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When more than 500 to 600 climbers attempt to summit the Mt. Everest summit every year, the confront with hundreds of tons of cans, bottles, plastic, and human and animal excrement. A recent Daily mail headline reads “Mount Everest is turning into the world’s highest garbage dump“.

Experts estimate that there could be as much as 50 tonnes of rubbish left on the mountain, while Everest Base Camp churns out 75 tonnes of garbage every season. The waste problem is now so bad that climbers will be forced to carry their own poo back down the mountain.

Daily Mail

According to NPR News, some women from local the Tharu community in Nepal are using garbage collected from the Mt. Everest as part of a Clean Mountain Campaign, a project supported by the Nepal Government to make things like like jewelry boxes and other crafts. According to Nepal’s Dept. of Tourism estimates, there is nearly 140,000 tons of waste on the Mt. Everest alone.

Government initiatives to clean up discarded materials on the mountains have ramped up since 2019. The waste, including the ropes, is now finding new life, transformed by skilled hands into items to sell such as boxes and table mats.

– NPR News

The NPR article reports that some of the Mt. Everest waste is being utilized by Indigenous craftswomen, inspired by Shilshila Acharya, who owns Avni Center for Sustainability, a waste processing business in Kathmandu.

Archarya, who has been reportedly working on waste management in mountain areas since 2019, has faced challenges recycling certain items, like ropes and gas cans. However, with Maya Rai, who owns Nepal Knotcraft Centre, and a team of craftswomen, they’re finding ways to turn this waste into cash. Their goal is to make sure that waste from mountains like Everest doesn’t end up in landfills. This will help local experts save on environmental conservation and help the economy grow.

Utilizing Mountain Ropes

The Clean Mountain Campaign, led by the Nepal Army, has successfully removed 108 tons of waste from Mt. Everest and other mountains, including human waste, food remnants, and mountaineering gear.

Acharya’s team helps sort through waste by organizing things like rope, shoes, and gas cans at the waste storage site in Kathmandu. Tingay Rai, who used to be a trekking guide and comes from the area around base camp of Mt. Everest, now enjoys this work despite its time-consuming. It offers him something to do after losing his job during the pandemic.

Acharya acknowledges the challenges of the project, particularly the costly and time-consuming processes of segregation and cleaning. The project involves 15 craftswomen and aims to turn mountain waste into useful things that can be sold at places like the Nepal Knotcraft Center. The craftswomen are reportedly paid around 400 Nepali Rupees for half-day’s work, which them with a flexible income source while taking care of their family.

More Work Ahead

Acharya, reportedly envisions expanding her program to include more women and process larger volumes of waste, but progress has been slow due to the lack of a sustainable business plan and the need for investment in mechanization.She is currently 55 tons of non-biodegradable waste, with an another 15 tons in storage, including various materials like glass, plastics, ropes, and metals. Although readily recyclable waste can be processed within three to six months, items like gas cans and ropes require over a year for segregation and reuse.

The Nepal Knotcraft Centre, is reportedly helping Acharya train more Indigenous women in crafting, hoping to create a model that benefits both the environment and locals, crafting a sustainable future where each recycled rope represents an opportunity for women to earn a livelihood while preserving their mountain environment.