The Nepalese government has announced plans to make the Everest trekking region completely free of single-use plastics.
Ganesh Ghimire, Chief Administrative Office of the rural Khumbu pasang Lhamu municipality in the Everest region confirmed that plastic items less than 30 microns thick will be banned from the 1st of January, 2020. This ban will include plastic bags, straws, soft drink and water bottles, as well as the majority of food packaging.
“Popular soft drink items like Coke, Fanta, Sprite, Mirinda and other beverages in plastic bottles will not be allowed,” suggesting that checkpoints entering the Sagarmatha national park will be checking the bags of trekkers and guides as they enter. However, as Ghimire explained, “beverages in metal cans will be allowed.”
“We will be working with the local body, trekking companies and the Mountaineering Association of Nepal to enforce the ban,” he said, adding that this will be strengthened by an environmental campaign for foreigners and locals alike, focussing on the problem of single-use plastics being left in the national park.
Ghimire says that households in the Khumbu region will be given five plastic bags of different sizes, which they can use for daily activities and containing wastage.
Sitaram Sapkota, former President of the Trekking Agencies Association of Nepal told Tribune India that he was happy to hear news of the ban.
“As the trekker numbers in the Everest region has been growing with each passing year, it’s a good move from the local authority to impose a ban on the use of plastic,” he said.
Media attention has drawn criticism toward the sheer amount of plastic pollution in one of the world’s most isolated trekking regions, spurring the government into action. Conservation groups have criticised the government’s lax environmental policies for one of the world’s most fragile ecosystems.
This caused the Nepalese government in 2014 to introduce a new policy that saw each member of a trekking expedition asked to bring back 8-kilograms of trash, in addition to the rubbish their expedition created along the trail. “Each expedition team has to make a $4000 deposit, which is refunded if each climber returns with 8kg of waste,” according to the Tribune India.
These rules, however, only apply for peak-climbing expeditions, and not for trekkers, which far outweigh the overall number of people in the Khumbu region due to the accessibility of Everest Base Camp and the Gokyo trails.
“The deposit it refunded only if the Sagarmatha Pollution Control Committee certifies that they have collected all their trash and brought it back down with them… But many commercial expeditions still end up leaving trash scattered among the snow,” the article continues to explain.
The announcement of the single-use plastics ban comes at the same time as the government’s release of the “Visit Nepal” campaign, aiming to draw 2-million visitors to Nepal by 2020.