Trash from Nepal into Treasures

Environmental degradation is a common problem in Nepal that is fortunately being tackled by the authorities. Irresponsible mountaineers tend to leave their empty oxygen cylinders and other trash behind on the mountain slopes. This has resulted in a distressing amount of trash accumulating on the once pristine mountains such as the Mount Everest. The government has implemented stringent measures to remedy the situation. Mountaineers now have to pay a deposit when they set off on their expeditions. They forfeit the amount if they leave their trash behind. This has prevented increase in accumulation though the damage done earlier can only be rectified with a lot of effort.

An artist from Maine was inspired to do his own bit to help when he saw a National Geographic documentary on the problem. Jeff Clapp traveled to Nepal in 2004 to bring back a load of empty oxygen cylinders discarded on the Mount Everest. He has worked painstakingly to convert them into bells and bowls. He bought 132 oxygen cylinders discarded on the Everest, the “World’s Highest Junkyard”, from the Nepal Mountaineering Association for $7000. He had them shipped back to his Brunswick home at a similar cost.

He has worked painstakingly on them with hand tools in his basement workshop over the past couple of years. Stripping off the fiberglass insulations, cutting and buffing the Aluminum canisters is tedious work. His enterprise, known as Bells from Everest sells bowls for $ 500 to1500 and bells from $1600 to 3000. The leftover aluminum shavings are put into glass balls and sold as Christmas decorations for $15. They were originally made as gifts for the family but are now sold at different places. Walt Disney World’s Expedition Everest roller coaster is one such location.

Jeff Clapp does not intend to collect more oxygen cylinders. His current stock will keep him busy for years. What he does want to do is to teach young people in Nepal to create these bells and earn a livelihood. Not only will this help the environment, it will create unique pieces of art and help the poor in Nepal.