This refers to the pre-collection separation of plastics, glass, aluminum, and other forms of waste into aggregate groups by households, lodges, restaurants, bakeries, and other entities, each stored in separate bins. This practice greatly facilitates the collection process by the SPCC as well as the later pre-processing, packaging, and shipping activities described below.
The collection of solid and organic waste should continue to be supervised by the SPCC. A system of daily waste pickup should be developed based upon the particular material, for example
Monday for plastics, Tuesday for metals, Wednesday for paper, and Thursday for organic wastes. Fridays and Sundays would be used by the SPPC for work at designated Environmental Stations and Material Recovery Facility locations.
Environmental Stations (ES)
These are designed to replace the open pits located throughout the park and buffer zone and are provided specifically for those businesses or households choosing not to participate in an SPCC-directed waste collection and management system. They should be well fenced and roofed to avoid rainwater coming into contact with the recyclables, and also to protect contents from foraging animals.
Material Recovery Facilities (MRF)
These further segregate and pre-process waste materials in forms more suitable for transportation back to Lukla and Kathmandu. In most cases one MRF can serve multiple villages (Namche/Khumjung/Kunde, or Hukung/Dingboche/ Pheriche/Dugla). Like the ES, an MRF is a covered and cement-floored facility that contains adequate storage space for the raw materials, appropriate, repairable waste pre-processing machines that can include shredders (for plastics), compactors (for aluminum and steel cans), and bailers (for plastics, metals, papers), and adequate storage space for all pre-processed waste materials.
Pre-Processed Material Export to Transportation Facilities
A number of options exist for moving raw and pre-processed materials from their points of origin to Kathmandu and/or other recycling facilities. For within the Khumbu (from village to ES and MRFs), they include:
- Porter: Until a system of ES and MRFs is established throughout the park and buffer zone, porters may be the most appropriate option for the transport of solid waste to existing pre-processing. Syangboche is recommended as an initial MRF site since it is centrally located for villages both to the west (Thame) as well as the east (Tengboche).
- Yak/dzopio:Some remote villages such as Gorak Shep continue to use yaks and dzopkios for the transport of supplies from Namche Bazar back to their lodges. As the yaks usually make the journey to Namche empty, they could be used to transport solid waste to the MRF in Syangboche.
For transportation from the ES and MRFs to Lukla and Kathmandu, options include:
- Carry Me Back: During a six week period In October-November, 2019 the SPCC and Sagarmatha Next conducted a pilot test of the Carry Me Back initiative. Tourists and trekking guides carried 1 kg of pre-processed waste from Namche Bazar back to Lukla on a volunteer basis, where it was then transported back to Kathmandu by the airlines. Approximately 2,400 visitors participated in the pilot program, carrying 5,400 ‘Carry Me Back’ bags to Lukla for an estimate 4.5 tons of solid waste removed from the park.
- Plane: Nepali airline companieshave long cooperated with recycling initiatives within the Khumbu by transporting the collected Everest base camp garbage free of cost back to Kathmandu. These relationships should continue to be explored and developed as the sustainable solid waste program gains momentum. However, the recent re-directing of all Kathmandu-based flights to Ramechhap, a 4-5 hour drive to the east of Kathmandu, will require additional transport method (trucks).
- Helicopter: Helicopters making longline cargo deliveries (Shree Airlines MI17 Cargo Helis, B3s) often return to Phaplu and/or Takshindu empty once their cargos have been off loaded. The possibility of utilizing the helicopters for pre-processed waste transportation out of the Khumbu should be investigated.
- Ropeway: Discussions are currently underway regarding the construction of a ropeway system that could deliver food and other supplies to Namche Bazar in place of the current system of using mules and yaks/dzopkios. A ropeway system could likewise be used to transport pre-processed solid waste out of the Khumbu and back to Lukla for delivery to recycling facilities in Kathmandu.
- Road: A new road is currently under constructionthat will terminate in Lukla, in part a response to the growing delays and cancellations of air traffic in recent years due to traffic congestion in Kathmandu. Once completed, the road could provide another means of transporting pre-processed solid waste from the Khumbu to recycling centers in Kathmandu.
Phased Regional Replication
Expansion of the program from Namche to other nodes will depend upon (a) the SPCC’s desire to do so, (b) the cooperation of all stakeholders, and (c) the level of support available from local government, SNPBZ, and other in-country funding entities. A recommended replication process is as follows:
Year 1: Lukla-Namche
Year 2: Namche-Khumjung-Kunde
Year 3: Phakding-Monjo-Tengboche-Deboche-Pangboche
Year 4: Dingboche-Chukung-Pheriche-Lobuche-Gorak Shep
Year 5: Phortse-Dole-Machermo-Gokyo
Year 6: Thamo-Thame-Marlung-Lungdhen
Treatment of Existing and Older Landfills
The approximately 75 open garbage and landfill pits documented by this study do not include the many dozens of older, buried landfills located throughout the park. Since both the active and historic landfills can continue to contaminate freshwater supplies for downstream villages and communities for decades to come, they will ultimately need to be excavated, segregated according to waste type (plastic, aluminum, steel), and integrated into the recycling process established through the steps recommended above.