Landfill of the Rising Sun
Mount Fuji, an imposing, symmetrical volcano just west of Tokyo most often depicted with a cap of snow, has long stood as a symbol of national pride for the people of Japan. But it also represents a downside of the country's high population density and rampant consumerism, as the mountain's lower slopes are girdled with decades of illegally dumped C&D debris, old office furniture, appliances and residential trash.
In 1998, the Fujisan Club was formed to address the problem and to help improve Fuji's chances of being named World Heritage site by the United Nations. The group has grown to 1,100 members, who organize regular clean-ups. Between March 2006 and March 2007, the group collected 187,000 pounds of trash. Group members say it's hard to tell exactly how much trash there is, as much of it is buried under leaves and topsoil. Cameras, patrols and steeper fines have helped discourage dumpers, but environmentalist and mountaineer Ken Noguchi, who works with the club, says his countrymen must learn to reduce the waste they produce overall.
A new public service campaign, which seeks to link littering to wrathful incursions by Godzilla and Mothra, has yielded mixed results.
Trashing the Void
Somewhere, a yeti is crying. At 8,850 meters (29,035 feet) Mount Everest, which straddles the border between Tibet and Nepal, is the tallest mountain in the world. As such, it has long presented an irresistible challenge to ambitious mountaineers. In their fervor to scale the peak, few climbers bother to port out the trash they brought with them. As a result, the slopes are littered with used containers, spent oxygen tanks, discarded camping and climbing gear, food waste and other remnants of expeditions past.
Since the first successful ascent in 1953 by Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, nearly 2,000 people have successfully climbed Everest, while 202 have died in the attempt. Given the perilous nature of the exercise, it's understandable that proper waste disposal falls pretty low on the list of priorities.
Nevertheless, Japan's Ken Noguchi — yes, that Ken Noguchi — says it is important to keep the mountain clean. Over the course of several expeditions, he and other concerned climbers have brought down 8.8 metric tons of trash, including 1,000 pounds found during their most recent trip. Sadly, few recyclers currently accept crampons.