If you live in a city, you know the feeling: all that congestion, pollution and waste are downers, but somewhere out there over the blue horizon a pristine environment free of pollution and our waste still beckons. But does it?
Not long ago researchers have reported that the beaches of even remote, uninhabited islands in the South Pacific were littered with the flotsam of plastic waste. Once a pristine environment free of human influence, Henderson Island, an elevated coral atoll home to several species of endemic birds and plants, has ended up with one of the highest densities of plastic debris on the planet. An estimated 38 million pieces of plastic rubbish now befoul the small island’s sandy beaches.
Turns out that heading vertically won’t save you from the scourge of waste, either. Locals in Nepal report that even the top reaches of the Himalayas, the world’s highest mountain chain, has turned into one large rubbish dump. The culprits are tourists who leave behind a steady stream of refuse on their ascents and descents, including large piles of human feces.
The slopes of the 8,848-meter peak known variously as Chomolungma and Sagarmatha, which is popular with mountain climbers from the world over, has been littered with the disposable waste of numerous foreign visitors who pay large sums to scale the peak. It is disgusting, an eyesore,” a Sherpa who has summited Everest 18 times has told a news agency. “The mountain is carrying tonnes of waste.”
Both Tibet and Nepal, which jointly share the summit, have sought to encourage climbers to carry their waste down with them after their climbs. Tibet has imposed a fine of $100 for each kilogram of left-behind garbage on climbers, while Nepal charges a refundable $4,000 deposit per mountaineering team to encourage its members to retrieve at least 8 kilograms of rubbish on their descent. The schemes have borne some positive results. Most wealthy climbers, however, still can’t be bothered and continue littering with wanton abandon.