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Tire Scraps and Twine: Reducing Landfill Waste while Lending a Hand in Hispar Village, Pakistan

Posted on: June 29th, 2009 by guest

Two observations I’ve made:

1) Landfills in the United States are inundated, continuously, with items that do not belong, still have plenty of life, and/or are quite valuable to some.

2) There are people in remote mountain villages throughout Asia whose job it is to porter heavy loads over rugged terrain. They make climbing and trekking expeditions possible, their pay is negligible, and their equipment is appalling.


Maybe my two observations are blatantly obvious, especially for those of us that have traveled in remote mountainous Asia or walked around their local landfill in shock. In short, I am asking for monetary donations that will address these two issues; saving valuable goods (shoes, clothing, backpacks) from further contaminating the landfill and delivering these items to the Hispar village, a remote community in northern Pakistan.

girl with firewood

My story:

In the fall of 2008 and with help from an AAC Mountain Fellowship grant, I spent three months in Pakistan on the Hispar Glacier trying to solo a big mountain. To heavily condense the experience, I lost forty pounds and the tip of my finger to frostbite, and tapped further into my physical ability than I ever hope to experience again. Climbing aside, the porters that made my expedition possible, by carrying heavy loads for five days to my climbing objective, were nothing short of amazing. On the strenuous return hike to the Hispar village, where many of them call home, I noticed one of the porter’s shoes. Tali Hussein’s footwear looked like some old tire scraps that he had fastened to his feet with twine. I looked at his 60lb “backpack” that was also twine-wrapped to his tiny frame. I glanced toward several days of rugged glacial moraine ahead of us. Then I noticed the appalling footwear of several other porters hiking nearby. “Their shoes aren’t going to make it,” I thought to myself.

all porters

Back in town, and through an interpreter, I found out that 22 year-old Tali Hussein had been using the same shoes for the last SIX years. I looked down at my FiveTen approach shoes that were new prior to this trip. In the last several months I had used them to cover over 200 miles of rough terrain and by American standards they were completely destroyed. Even still, my haggard shoes were far superior to anything my porters wore. And so, prior to leaving the wonderful Hispar village, I found Tali, gave him a hug, and handed him his first pair of “new” shoes, equipped with sticky rubber and all. He was ecstatic and my only wish was that I could thank the other porters in a similar fashion; after all, they had assisted me through the weakest physical event of my life.

Months later at home in Utah, I’m driving to go ice climbing with a friend who works in the return department at one of our nation’s biggest outdoor retailers. I was perplexed by one of his job tasks; taking slightly used clothing, shoes, backpacks, and other outdoor soft goods, and shredding them with razorblades so they are completely unusable. “The corporation has a policy that we can not resell the items, so we just throw them away,” my friend tells me. I think of the utter waste going to the landfill, I think of the countless in need, and I think of my friends in Pakistan. As soon as I get home from that day of ice climbing I begin writing a letter to the manager of the retail store where my friend works.

For the past several months the retail giant that was once destroying perfectly good items has been collecting them for the people of Hispar village, thus rejuvenating my faith in corporate policy. In September I am returning to Pakistan to attend to some unfinished business I have with a mountain. This time with shoes, backpacks, and clothing; saved from the landfill and presented to the hardworking porters that will happily use it.


Here’s how you can help:
•    PLEASE DO NOT SEND MATERIAL DONNATIONS. (I have collected the maximum amount of material donations that I am able to transport)
•    Monetary donations are graciously appreciated and will be solely directed toward costly shipping fees.
•    I can accept cash, check, or paypal.
•    Upon request I am able to provide contact information for the manager of the store providing the material donations.
•    Upon returning to the US I do plan on sharing my experience in the form of articles, slideshows, video presentations, from both a climbing and donation perspective.
•    I am willing to discuss any desires for reciprocation that the donator might have in mind.
•    Please feel free to contact me directly with any questions.

Kindly send monetary donations to:
Kyle Dempster
6228 Haven Moor Cir.
Salt Lake City, UT 84121
[email protected]

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