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Mt. Everest’s Pollution Problem

June 24, 2013

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photo via Martin Edstrom

It’s been just sixty years since the first ascent up the venerable Mt. Everest, but during that time, things have shifted dramatically: It’s no longer just the climbers that face danger, but the Himalayan ecosystem as well. With greater numbers of visitors to the mountain and hundreds of climbers every season, comes accumulating waste and pollution. 

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Climbers clog passes like the Hillary Step (shown below), some waiting as long as two hours before they can continue to the summit.

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As climbers ascend, roughly 50 tons of trash is discarded every year including oxygen tanks, food packaging, climbing equipment, and human waste. 

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Thankfully, people behind projects like Saving Mount Everest are working to draw attention to this growing pollution problem and to begin to put clean up efforts and plans in place. Waste bins, toilets, and a must-sign Code of Conduct for climbers are just some of the ways the project hopes to keep the mountain cleaner. In 2011 alone, team members brought 8 tons of garbage off the mountain. 

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It’s a tricky balance between the tourism and money Mt. Everest brings into the local economy, and sustaining the environment and ecosystem that draws people to the place to begin with.

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