Rubbish collected from Mount Everest to be transformed into artworks

An initiative has been launched in Nepal in a bid to counteract visitors dumping waste on the world's tallest mountain

Rubbish collected from Mount Everest is set to be turned into art and displayed in a nearby gallery, to highlight the need to save the world's tallest mountain from turning into a dumping site.

Used oxygen bottles, torn tents, ropes, broken ladders, cans and plastic wrappers discarded by climbers and trekkers litter the 8,848-metre-tall peak and the surrounding areas.

Tommy Gustafsson, project director and co-founder of Sagarmatha next – a visitors' information centre and waste upcycling facility – said foreign and local artists will be engaged in creating artwork from waste materials and training locals to turn trash into treasure.

“We want to showcase how you can transform solid waste to precious pieces of art … and generate employment and income,” said Gustafsson. “We hope to change the people’s perceptions about the garbage and manage it."

The centre is located at an altitude of 3,780 metres at Syangboche on the main trail to Everest base camp, two days' walk from Lukla, the gateway to the mountain.

It is due for "soft opening" to locals in the spring as the number of visitors could be limited this year because of pandemic restrictions, Gustafsson said.

Products and artwork will be displayed to raise environmental awareness, or sold as souvenirs with the proceeds going to conservation of the region, he said.

Trash brought down from the mountain or collected from households and tea houses along the trail is handled by a local environmental group, the Sagarmatha Pollution Control Committee, but the task in a remote region that has no roads is a huge challenge.

Rubbish is dumped or burnt in open pits, causing air and water pollution as well as contamination of soil.

Phinjo Sherpa, of the EcoHimal Nepal group involved in the scheme, said under a "carry me back" initiative, each returning tourist and guide will be requested to take a bag containing one kilogram of garbage back to Lukla Airport, from where the trash will be airlifted to Kathmandu.

In this photo made on May 22, 2019, a long queue of mountain climbers line a path on Mount Everest. About half a dozen climbers died on Everest last week most while descending from the congested summit during only a few windows of good weather each May. (Nirmal Purja/@Nimsdai Project Possible via AP)

In 2019, more than 60,000 trekkers, climbers and guides visited the area.

“We can manage a huge amount of garbage if we involve the visitors,” Sherpa said.

Everest was first climbed by New Zealander Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, a Nepali-Indian sherpa in 1953.

Nearly 4,000 people have since made 6,553 ascents from the Nepali side of the mountain, which can also be climbed from the Tibetan side in China, according to The Himalayan Database.