Plastic Pollution of HIMALAYAS

By C K Nayak

Plastic Pollution of HIMALAYAS

In the modern world no place is left without plastic pollution, whether it is land, sky or water. Even the highest mountain range, the Himalayas, is no exception. In fact, it is more polluted with plastics than the plains since more and more people, whether common tourists, pilgrims or adventure lovers such as climbers or trekkers, not to speak of local inhabitants, are visiting the mountains. And unlike permanent human habitations, there is no proper way of collecting and scientifically disposing of most such long-lasting waste materials. As a result, the Himalayan mountains are witnessing one of the biggest environmental tragedies in the world.

Most of the top fast food/ drink company brands like Pepsi, Parle, Nestle and Hindustan Lever spend lakhs of rupees in advertising their products and a small fraction to control the pollution their product causes. A study in the Indian Himalayas showed that these top-notch companies cause the maximum of plastic pollution in the pristine region.

The studies by The Himalayan Cleanup (THC) showed that while there is a huge “variety” in the garbage found in the Himalayan region, some products are far more at fault than others. The brand audit revealed the top 10 companies whose plastics are found littering the mountains were PepsiCo India, CG Foods India Pvt. Ltd., Perfetti Van Melle, ITC, ParleAgro Pvt. Ltd, Hindustan Coca-Cola, Nestle, Hindustan Unilever Ltd., Mondelez India Food Pvt. Ltd. and Dabur India Ltd.

The Clean-up, which was done in association with Integrated Mountain Initiative (IMI), aims to highlight the waste crisis in the Indian Himalayan Region and advocates for mountain-sensitive policies, as well as individual change. Over 5,000 participants undertook the clean-up in more than 100 sites and conducted a waste and brand audit which are aligned to the global brand audit of “Break Free from Plastics”. The THC was led by over 100 educational institutions and 49 organisations, with more than 70 schools joining the campaign.

Priya Shrestha, a member of Zero Waste Himalaya, pointed out that the data received from 65 sites, revealed that 1,14,376 pieces of trash, weighing 4,143 kg, were collected in total across the mountains. About 92.7% of the waste collected was plastic trash. What is most significant is that 72% of all plastic collected was non-recyclable, like multi-layered plastic, and tetrapak, the root of the plastic crisis, as these plastics have no solution. Though 28% of plastic waste collected was recyclable, trash such as PET bottles litter the mountains as even recyclable plastics are not collected due to collection, linkage and support challenges in the mountains.

Alarmingly, the packaged food and drinks made 82% of all plastic waste collected in THC, a clear indication of the junk and processed food culture that is now prevalent. A huge 70.2% of food packaging was non-recyclable multi- layered plastic, which led to the Himalayan waste crisis. This is a crucial insight into looking at waste management solutions that are systemic and design-oriented. 

Source: Himalayan News Chronicle