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Trash to treasure: Everest garbage given new lease of life

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Cleaning up the Everest
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Cleaning up the Everest

Community NGO Sagarmatha Pollution Control Committee, along with BW2V and other agencies, recently launched a campaign to transport waste to recycling centres by harnessing the roughly 50,000 trekkers and their guides who visit the region every year -- not all attempt the summit but many travel to base camp.

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Best out of waste!
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Best out of waste!

A group of tourists sip water at a five-star hotel in Kathmandu, unaware that the green glasses in their hands were once bottles discarded on Mount Everest -- left by climbers eager to make their ascent.

AFP
Damage control activity
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Damage control activity

In homes across the Nepali capital upcycled items, from pots to lamps, crafted from Everest waste products are slowly making their way as authorities and businesses look for fresh ways to tackle the damage caused by decades of commercial mountaineering. Tonnes of trash -- including empty cans and gas canisters, bottles, plastic and discarded climbing gear -- litter the mountain, which has been dubbed the "highest dumpster in the world".

AFP
Govt organised clean-up camp
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Govt organised clean-up camp

After heavy criticism for the condition of one of its greatest natural resources, Nepal's government and mountaineering groups this year organised a six-week clean-up. Scaling almost 8,000 metres (26,300 feet) from base camp to the closest camp to the summit, a 14-strong team retrieved more than 10 tonnes of trash that was flown or driven to recycling centres in Kathmandu.

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"A different path to rebirth"
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"A different path to rebirth"

Workers there manually sorted the materials -- each type following a different path to rebirth: Iron was sent to rod manufacturing firms, shredded aluminium cans to utensil makers, and discarded bottles re-fashioned into household items.

AFP
An eco-friendly move!
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An eco-friendly move!

The products are now used in upmarket hotels, restaurants, and homes around the capital, and Lepcha says there is growing consumer interest in goods made from salvaged Everest scraps. Aanchal Malla of Hotel Yak & Yeti, a luxury five-star hotel in Kathmandu, said opting for the upcycled goods was in-line with the hotel's move towards sustainable and environmentally friendly products.

AFP
A new facility in the making
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A new facility in the making

A new waste facility -- called Sagarmatha Next after the Nepali name for Everest -- is also being completed in Syangboche at an altitude of nearly 3,800 metres (12,400 feet), passed by trekkers and mountaineers on the way to the base camp. It will process garbage, and collaborate with artists and innovators to make new products in a bid to tap into this burgeoning market for Everest 'products'.

AFP
Warning!
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Warning!

But mountaineers warn that this year's clean-up collected just a fraction of Mount Everest's rubbish -- with the higher and harder to reach camps still littered by abandoned gear. Melting glaciers, caused by global warming, are revealing years-old waste but as the number of climbers attempting to summit soars so do the environmental challenges.

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