To change the perception of waste and provide support to the locals by transforming trash into resource
These days, it has been quite frequent to open my TikTok app and find tons of videos showing Everest expeditions, as well as hikers’ physical and lung training, and 360°records picturing a bent horizon due to the altitudes.
I am neither an athlete nor a climber, but my algorithm keeps pushing those 60-second reels about worn-out people with cold-burnt faces.
The hashtag #everest counts 1,3 dizzying billion views.
The phenomenon of the expedition to Sagarmatha National Park, where Everest lies, has in fact grown hugely, especially after Covid19 pandemic (over 80,000 visitors annually), drawing socio-economical benefits to the area, while causing an undesirable waste problem within all areas.
You can see thousands of people queuing from peak to peak patiently waiting for their feet to step forward, often leaving at their backs litter of any type.
This is part of an extended pollution issue that is plaguing the Himalayas’ people and local biodiversity, a hot topic that is forcing locals to take measures to contain the problem.
In this context, it unfolds the fruitful collaboration between Dutch design firm Super Local and Nepalese nonprofit organization Sagarmatha Next, who partnered to handle what has been called the “world’s highest garbage dump”.
Mount Everest, known as “Sagarmatha”, meaning “forehead in the sky” and standing at 8,849 meters (29,032 feet), is the highest mountain above sea level in the world.
Sadly, what is brought up there, remains there, or, even worse, it gets burnt.
“The lack of infrastructure in the high regions and the difficulty to transport it out of the valley has required all of us to think about creative ways to manage the waste.”
In the article “Trash and Overcrowding at the Top of the World” National Geographic encapsulated Sagarmantha National Park's history starting from 1991, the year when SPCC - Sagarmantha Pollution Control Committee - was founded to help keep clean the Khumbu region, due to a growing pollution problem that has led to the contamination of local watershed, threatening the health of nearby people.
In view of this, the aim of Sagarmatha Next is to change the perception of waste and provide support to the locals by transforming trash into resource.
With the precious collaboration of Super Local, the Netherlands-based design firm specialized in creating and manufacturing socially and ecologically impactful products, they developed together the Carry me back program and the From the Himalayas product collection.
“During the trekking season, approximately 1 ton of waste is left each day in the Everest region. The high altitude, lack of connectivity, and limited recycling infrastructure make it challenging to remove waste, resulting in more than 80 open pits in the region in which waste is burned - contaminating the soil, water, and air and threatening biodiversity” states Super Local on Instagram, talking about the Carry me back crowdsourced program developed with Sagarmatha Next and the local waste management organization SPCC.
Basically, the system harnesses the movement of tourists - relieving the work of local haulers - from the mountains to lower regions, where transported waste can be recycled.
Waste is collected from the open pits, restaurants, lodges, and hiking trail trash bins. The local NGO Sagarmatha Pollution Control Committee sorts, shreds - to reduce the volume - and packs the waste into the 1-kilo capacity Carry me back bags which are then given to locals and visitors at a pick-up station for carrying them to the regional airport, where the bags are shipped to Kathmandu, to a partner facility that recycles the waste.
The core of Super Local design firm is, in fact, the generation of positive social and ecological impacts, within resource-limited contexts around the world, while helping the local networks to grow around sustainable outcomes.
And so the project goes further.
Designed by the firm for funding the whole project, the collection’s products ‘From the Himalayas’ are fully made of HDPE plastic bottle caps products collected from the hiking trails and the Himalayas. The plastic waste from the Great Himalaya National Park is injected into molds to generate brand new products depicting a 3D model of the Himalayas, and colorful stones, a mementos of a virtuous designed system.
This year, the project has been nominated for the Dutch Design Awards in the category Product.
The impact of tourism in the Khumbu region and the solutions by Sagarmatha Next. A movie by IVAR Studios.
|The project:||Carry me Back|
|The collection||From the Himalayas|
|Designed by||Super Local | @superlocal for Sagarmatha Next | @sagarmathanext|