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Turning Trash into Treasure

Apr/07/2024 / by Team Seema

Discarded waste finds new life through traditional crafting

While Nepal sees more than a million visitors each year—many who trek to the summits of Mt. Everest, Makalu, and Annapurna—those guests also create thousands of pounds of trash. In an effort to clean up the mountains and maintain the delicate surrounding ecosystem, the Nepalese government launched the Clean Mountain Campaign in 2019. Just last summer alone, nearly 35,000 kgs of trash was removed. 

But rather than letting all that waste sit in a landfill, a crew of innovative local women have embarked on an ambitious project to transform old gear into beautiful crafts, and empower indigenous women while doing it. 

While working with the government’s Clean Campaign, Shilshila Acharya, owner of the Avni Center for Sustainability in Kathmandu, found they couldn’t recycle things like old climbing ropes and cooking gas cans. But upon meeting Maya Rai, the leader of the Nepal Knotcraft Center, the women realized they could repurpose some of those materials and give them new life. 

At the Knotcraft Center, about 15 craftswomen use their traditional skills to weave once-discarded ropes with grass collected from riverbanks, creating jewelry boxes, table mats, and other decorative items. By selling these crafts at Nepal Knotcraft Center’s outlet in Kathmandu and at exhibitions, the women earn above the local minimum wage, while enjoying flexible working hours that allow them to balance their household responsibilities.

While Rai and Acharya would like to expand the program, they’re looking for more investment in cleaning and processing equipment. But they’re hopeful to find partners that will help them to continue the initiative. To find out how to support the center, visit nepalknotcraft.com.

A Mountain of Waste

Fifty tonnes (more than 110,000 pounds) of trash has been left on Mount Everest in the last 60 years. Source: The European Journal of Molecular and Clinical Medicine

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