Welcome to Scrap Collector, Waste Dive's Friday round-up of insights and stories you may have missed during the week.
FROM MOUNTAINEERS' WHITE WHALE TO "WORLD'S HIGHEST GARBAGE DUMP"
Love trash (that's really, really high up and hard to reach)? Well, make your way posthaste to Mount Everest, where, as reported by Times of India, the Nepalese government just removed a whopping 24,200 pounds of garbage. If that's not a prime selfie opp, I don't know what is.
Actually, much of the waste buildup — which included empty oxygen cylinders, plastic bottles, cans, batteries, food packaging, fecal matter, kitchen waste and four dead bodies — can be attributed to casual climbers hoping to up their Instagram game. As Margret Grebowicz noted in The Atlantic this week, the mountain — once a hallowed site of private, intensely personal communes between mountaineer and mountain — has fallen prey as of late to the "Everest Industry." These days, Nepal sells permits en masse (a record 381 this climbing season) to "legions of privileged amateurs" who endanger themselves and others in their quest for the perfect selfie — leaving piles of litter in their wake.
That human-made pollution — plus the ravages of climate change — has made for visible environmental degradation, John All, an environmental sciences professor at Western Washington University, noted to the AP.
"The warming temperature is melting the glaciers and the snow around Mount Everest very quickly, so what happens is even when there is a storm it melts in a couple of hours," All said. "The glaciers are retreating dramatically because of global warming."
"Overall, the past 10 years have seen a lot changes in the mountains, and they all have been for the negative environmentally in terms of long term survivability of the glaciers," he added.
This, of course, traps the Nepalese government between a mountain and a hard place.
The trek up Everest costs an estimated $45,000 per climber — a "huge amount of money for a relatively poor country like Nepal," Col. Ranveer Sigh Jamwal, an Indian Army officer and three-time Everest scaler, told CBS News. "It's not in their economic interest to limit the permits, nor should it be their responsibility to scan the health of climbers."
Nevertheless, Nepal has made concerted efforts to clean up Everest. A regulation passed in 2014 requires each climber to take at least 17 pounds of trash off the mountain — the average amount left per person, according to USA TODAY. And in April, the government launched a 45-day, approximately $207,000 campaign to clean the mountain's once pristine slopes — the first time such an initiative has been undertaken, as reported by The Washington Post.
While that campaign concluded this week, government officials have pledged to continue efforts next year — a reminder of the formidable climb ahead. After all, while scaling a mountain is no mean feat, it's time we acknowledge the true Everest of our age: preserving and honoring the natural world — while we still can.
IN OTHER NEWS...
Cruise operator to pay $20 million penalty for ongoing environmental violations — CBS News
Love trash, but prefer it soggier and less elevated? Consider, in lieu of Everest, a cruise on one of Carnival Corp's waste-spewing Princess Cruise Line ships. The travel leisure company found itself in hot water in 2016, when it was forced to pay a $40 million criminal penalty for dumping oily waste from its Princess cruise ships — the largest penalty of its kind at the time.
But not large enough to get Carnival to clean up its act, apparently. The cruise operator recently pleaded guilty to violating the terms of its five-year probation, admitting to discharging "gray water" in prohibited places (such as Alaska's Glacier Bay National Park) and dumping plastic-contaminated food waste in the Bahamas. It also confessed to various administrative violations — including falsifying compliance documents and sending cleanup crews to ships beforehand to prepare them for independent inspections.
"I sincerely regret these mistakes. I do take responsibility for the problems we had," Carnival CEO Arnold Donald told the judge, according to NPR. "I'm extremely personally disappointed we have them. I am personally committed to achieve best in class for compliance."
The company reached a settlement with federal prosecutors on Monday to pay a $20 million penalty — a decision criticized by attorney Knoll Lowney, who represented the victims of Carnival's environmental breaches.
"Carnival's environmental crimes have victimized individuals, communities, and businesses throughout this country and across the planet," Lowney said in a statement. "These victims — including those that came before the court — wanted Carnival punished and the environment protected. Instead we slapped Carnival on the wrist again and allowed it to continue its criminal as usual business practices."
AROUND THE WORLD
France to outlaw destruction of unsold consumer goods — France 24
Still can't get enough of trash? You might want to cross France off your to-visit list. Prime Minister Édouard Philippe announced a ban this week on the destruction of unsold non-food products — a practice that results in the annual disposal of more than $730 million worth of new consumer goods in France.
"It is a waste that shocks, that is shocking to common sense," Philippe declared on Tuesday. "It's a scandal."
The measure — part of a draft bill up for debate next month — would require manufacturers and retailers to hand in unsold products for reuse or recycling. It is expected to take effect between 2021 and 2023.
SEEN & HEARD
Sesame St trash episode = appointment viewing for Rosengren household. Messages so far include women as sanitation workers, yard trimmings should be composted. Plus, cameo by WM. pic.twitter.com/UCjDwyYFqI— Cole Rosengren (@ColeRosengren) June 1, 2019
ATTENTION: PLASTIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT. This is my pledge to join @lonelywhale and #HydrateLike the planet and future generations depend on it! https://t.co/2laPkgK73X @adriangrenier @diplo @VicMensa @AidanRGallagher @hayleau @RachaelLCook @PaulNicklen pic.twitter.com/9ZdYTe7qib— zooey deschanel (@ZooeyDeschanel) June 5, 2019
The planet’s plastic problem is in our backyard. A new study from the Aquarium and our colleagues @MBARI_News shows that plastic pollution—in the form of microplastics washed into the ocean from land—is present throughout the depths of Monterey Bay.— Monterey Bay Aquarium (@MontereyAq) June 6, 2019