Nepal to Everest Climbers: Bring Back Your Trash—Or Else

Tons of trash remain on 'world’s highest garbage dump'

Mount Everest isn’t just littered with corpses. It’s littered with actual litter—as much as 50 tons of it, according to one estimate.

Rusty oxygen bottles, ruined trekking equipment, human waste and other refuse have turned the world’s highest mountain into what some call the “the world’s highest garbage dump.”

No longer, says the Nepali government. Following through on its threat last year to crack down on the sometimes circus-like atmosphere of the Everest climbing season, the country will now require climbers to return to base camp with 8 kilograms (18 pounds) of trash, reports the Associated Press.

That is the estimated amount the average climber leaves behind. Hundreds make summit bids on the 29,035-foot mountain every year.

Such regulations are nothing new, but the threat of enforcement is. Climbers who return to base camp carrying less than the mandatory 8 kilograms of trash will forfeit a $4,000 deposit.

“We are not asking climbers to search and pick up trash left by someone else,” said Nepali mountaineering official Maddhu Sudan Burlakoti to the AP. “We just want them to bring back what they took up.”

There have been expeditions in recent years to reduce the amount of trash on the mountain, much of which remains in the “death zone”—above 8000 meters—precisely because it’s so difficult to recover.

The Saving Mount Everest Project, a conservation group, hauled down eight metric tons during a 2011 expedition.  Sherpas reportedly recovered 25 tons during a 2010 cleanup, and the annual Eco Everest Expedition, organized by the company Asian Trekking, claims to have brought down 13 tons since 2008.