Higher Than Ever: Everest Trash Cleanup Scales New Heights

Clean-up workers removed more than four and a half tons of garbage from Mt. Everest in an international campaign launched this month.

mount everest trash cleanup
Photo via Flikr user Gunther Hagleitner

Every year since 1997, volunteers assemble along the north slope of Everest to remove garbage left behind by the previous season’s expeditions. This year’s cleanup, launched May 6, will reach higher than ever before.

The international volunteer effort comprises more than 100 climbers from 20 countries, including the U.S. Tibetan locals and mountaineering staff take part in the cleanup. This year, they will climb to an altitude of more than 21,000 ft. to remove plastic bags, discarded oxygen tanks and ropes, and literally tons of tin cans.

According to reports, the cleanup has picked up nearly five tons of waste so far, roughly a third of which is aluminum cans.

Everest Cleanup

Pema Trinley, deputy secretary of the Tibet Mountaineering Association, told the Jakarta Times the annual endeavor focuses on Everest’s areas of need.

“The altitude between 5,200 to 6,500 meters is where most of the human activities such as mountaineering and training take place, and so it has the most waste,” he said.

A fleet of 102 yaks hauls the trash down to 5,200 meters for sorting. From there, trucks carry garbage to Dingri County in China. The China Mountaineering Association and the Tibet Sports Bureau organize the effort.

Nyima Tsering, deputy director of the Tibet Sports Bureau, told the Jakarta Times next year’s cleanup could go even higher. According to him, 2018 volunteers could pull trash from as high as 27,000 ft., or 8,300 meters. That’s roughly 2,000 feet from Everest’s 29,029-ft. summit.

He also said the bureau plans to install recycling and sorting facilities near north slope campsites. This year’s cleanup will wrap up later this month.

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Adam Ruggiero is an all-sport activity junkie - from biking, running, and (not enough) surfing, to ball sports, camping, and cattle farming. If it's outside, it's worth doing. Adam graduated from the University of Minnesota with a BA in journalism. Likes: unique beer, dogs, stories. Like nots: neckties, escalators, manicured lawns.

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