It hasn’t always been this way. When I first visited the Khumbu in 1973, there were no lodges, the total number of tourists per year was under 2,000 and virtually no solid waste was produced. Food came in reusable packaging (doko baskets, cloth bags) and meals consisted of rice, lentils, potatoes and some vegetables.
By the 1980s and 1990s a few lodges started being built, and trekking groups camped in village potato fields rented out by landowners. By the early 2000s the rush to build lodges to feed and shelter the growing numbers of tourists took off, transforming the cultural landscape. With lodges came both greater tourist numbers as well as an increased demand for consumables like beer, whiskey, wine, bottled water, fruit cocktail, sunscreen, TVs and batteries, with their non-biodegradable packaging. It all ended up in refuse pits to be routinely burned.