A Steady Climb in Garbage

Mount Everest is awash in trash and feces. Can't we keep anything nice?

March 04, 2015

The summit of Mount Everest looms over everything—including the garbage, oxygen containers, and broken tent poles of those who climb it (and the frozen bodies of those who fail). The biggest problem, though, is human waste. Climbers relieve themselves anywhere they can, leaving rivulets of yellow and brown snow all over the mountain. In spring, the excrement washes into the streams and rivers that local communities depend on.

And as the number of adventure seekers grows (shown in the graph below), the worse the problem gets. More than 700 people made the dangerous trek in 2013, and quite frankly, Nepalese officials have had enough. Earlier this week, they said they will be cracking down on a 2014 mandate requiring each climber to bring down 17.6 pounds of litter. If they don't, they face a $4,000 fine. And why else should you mountaineers clean up the trash? Because it's there

Everest attempts

onEarth provides reporting and analysis about environmental science, policy, and culture. All opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the policies or positions of NRDC. Learn more or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.


Every year, we blithely discard billions of phones, laptops, TVs, and other electronics that can end up poisoning communities around the world.

onEarth Story

We’re number one! We’re number one!

onEarth Story

A new wave of entrepreneurs aim to wean consumers from single-use plastic.

Northeast Dispatch

A new waste equity law aims to remedy a decades-long injustice that has turned certain outer-borough neighborhoods into de facto dumping grounds.

onEarth Story

Our leftovers can be dangerous in the wrong hands, paws, or beaks.


Darby Hoover, NRDC’s waste expert, says this “single stream” type of recycling is mostly about customer convenience, but the costs may outweigh the benefits.

Reuters/Hasan Shaaban
onEarth Story

No one’s collected Beirut’s garbage in six months.

Join Us

When you sign up you'll become a member of NRDC's Activist Network. We will keep you informed with the latest alerts and progress reports.