Reaching New Heights in Plastic Pollution—Preliminary Findings of Microplastics on Mount Everest
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Mount Everest, Earth’s highest mountain, was once a pristine environment; however, due to increased tourism, waste is accumulating on the mountain, with a large proportion being made out of plastic. This research aimed to identify and characterise microplastic (MP) pollution at the highest point on Earth. Samples of stream water and snow were collected from areas of both high and low human presence, including a sample from the Balcony (8,440 m.a.s.l.), one of the last resting spots before the summit. MPs were detected at an estimated 30 MP L-1 in snow and 1 MP L-1 in stream water, and the majority were fibrous. MP concentration was strongly associated with areas of highest trekker footfall. Therefore, with increased tourism, deposition of MP throughout Mt. Everest is expected to rise. Consequently, at a pivotal point in the exploration of remote areas, there are lessons to be learned on how we can keep areas pristine with meaningful environmental stewardship.
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