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No time to waste for mountains

UN Environment has celebrated International Mountain Day with the launch of a pioneering report on the challenges and solutions for waste management at high altitudes as well as an awareness-raising event in Vienna.

The Outlook on Waste Management for Mountain Regions sheds light on sources of waste in mountain regions generated by tourism, extractive industries, urbanization and natural disasters for example, and points to successful examples for dealing with difficulties.

Tourism is seen as a double-edged sword. The number of visitors to the Mount Everest region ballooned from 20 in 1964 to 26,000 in 2012, bringing in vital income for local populations, but also 140,000 kilograms of leftover waste. Bring-your-waste-back policies are shown to help, while schemes for recycling park fees into bins and ecolabels are also recommended.

Meanwhile, during a panel discussion held as part of the report’s launch event, experts working in tourism and waste management underlined how local communities lacked awareness on how to handle modern waste - such as plastic and e-waste - and its impact on health.

Waste prevention, disposal and treatment is a shared responsibility between mountain communities, the tourism sector and private businesses, the experts agreed, while also sharing personal stories and experiences from their home mountains regions such as the Indian Himalayas and Austrian Alps.


The tourism sector can also play an active role in waste management, stressed the Alpine Association – especially with 2017 being the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development 2017.

The Mountain Waste Outlook report is part of a regional and thematic outlook series currently developed by UN Environment, its International Environmental Technology Centre and partners.

It was launched during an event on 13 December by UN Environment in collaboration with GRID-Arendal, the International Solid Waste Association and the Austrian Alpine Association.

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