It is now getting ridiculous. Formerly, we were shocked by the news about traces of microplastic found in the depth at the bottom of Mariana trench. And in just few months later, another discovery suggested that microplastic has also reached Mount Everest.
See how ridiculous is it? The pollution has not only reached the deepest part of this planet, but also the highest peak! What kind of mistake we have made here? Those micro pieces of plastics will not decompose naturally there.
Since around the summit of mount Everest is not a place where living creatures other than hikers exist, can the presence of microplastic bring negative effects to the nature? How big is the impact that we are supposed to deal with, if any? How can microplastic get to those places?
Here in this article we will talk about the existence of microplastic in mount Everest.
The Pristine Summit
The summit of mount Everest is supposed to be a sacred and pristine place. However, that place may not be as pristine and sacred as it used to be nowadays, because of our own faults. We have brought so many changes to the place.
Decades of becoming one of the most visited places on earth, the summit of mount Everest has to bear the burden of hundreds of people visiting it every year. In 2018, even a record of 800 people reaching the summit was created.
You might remember that in one of our articles, we have talked about how mount Everest has become a huge landfill for hikers’ trash. That is an unavoidable thing as long as the sacred mountain is still one of the most favorite places to put in people’s bucket list.
We must have known beforehand that it is not an easy job to do. To reach the height of over 8,000 meters above sea level means you have to be away from proper toilet, source of food, fresh water source, and even it gets harder to breathe up there.
Of course, to tackle those difficulties, people who climb the mountain will prepare themselves with proper supplies. The problem is, some supplies brought to the mountain never comes down again even after the people brought it there are already home.
Microplastic In Everest Summit
Back to track again with the surprising news we talked about earlier. Yes, microplastic has been found near the summit of mount Everest, meaning that we can now find microplastic particles in the entire surface of the planet.
It was after a group of researchers collected sample of snow in 11 locations on mount Everest. The samples of snow collected originated from height of 5,300 meters to 8,440 meters high of the 8,850-meter high mountain.
The samples collected were then brought to laboratory to be analyzed, and the result was surprising. “It really surprised me to find microplastics in every single snow sample I analyzed,” said the lead researcher of the study, Imogen Napper from the University of Plymouth.
“Mount Everest is somewhere I have always considered remote and pristine. To know we are polluting near the top of the tallest mountain is a real eye-opener,” she said. The result showed that even the most remote areas, the bottom of Mariana trench and summit of mount Everest, are not as ‘pure’ as it used to be anymore.
It is a hard slap on humanity’s face, and we need to find immediate solutions for this problem. “With microplastics so ubiquitous in our environment, it’s time to focus on appropriate environmental solutions. We need to protect and care for our planet,” Napper said.
How Can Microplastic Touch Everest Summit?
Indeed, if we think about it, seems impossible for microplastic that we commonly find in the ocean and soil can reach that height. There must be no way source of microplastic, which are plastic waste like plastic bag or plastic bottle is allowed to get there.
Apparently, plastic bags and plastic bottles are not the only source of microplastic. It can also come from clothing, tents, and ropes brought by the hikers. All of those products can contain a lot of plastic depending on the brand produced it.
“The samples showed significant quantities of polyester, acrylic, nylon, and polypropylene fibers. Those materials are increasingly being used to make the high-performance outdoor clothing climbers use as well as tents and climbing ropes,” said Napper.
The prove is the fact that highest concentration of microplastic found was in Base Camp area. This is the place where trekkers and climbers usually spend the most of their time to prepare for harsh environment on their way to summit.
Nevertheless, even though this study showed that microplastic is literally everywhere on this planet, we still don’t have any idea of how to clean it up. Are we going to just let those plastic particles stay there for eternity?
Changing Our View
According to Napper, the best way to deal with our plastic problem is not only by stop consuming it anymore, but also by finding the alternatives. “Currently, environmental efforts tend to focus on reducing, reusing, and recycling larger items of waste,” she said.
“This is important, but we also need to start focusing on deeper technological solutions that focus on microplastics, like changing fabric design and incorporating natural fibers instead of plastic when possible,” the researcher continued.
Napper, as the lead researcher of the study, also hopes that this study will further explain how severe this planet’s plastic pollution is. Our ocean is indeed famous for its microplastic pollution, but it is not the only place that suffer from that condition.
“These are the highest microplastics discovered so far. While it sounds exciting, it means that microplastics have been discovered from the depths of the ocean all the way to the highest mountain on Earth,” she said.
Other than mount Everest summit, microplastic particles have been found in other remote high places also. Two of the most ‘impossible’ places are Swiss Alps and French Pyrenees. Researchers predicted that this case was a proof that microplastic can also be carried by winds.