Tuesday 28 March 2023

The garbage crisis worsens in Panama City

On average, each citizen is generating between 1.0 to 1.2 kg per day.

Paying the bills


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Q24N (EFE) Garbage piles accumulate in almost every corner of Panama City, a long-standing problem that has worsened in recent months due to the shortage of compactor trucks, and a recent strike by the “hormiguitas”, the personnel who collect and cleans the streets, which came to aggravate the crisis.

“What impression are tourists going to get about this? Look at the dirt! What are they going to say, that in Panama we are all pigs?,” José Madrid, who lives in the populous neighborhood of Calidonia, in the heart of the city near the seat of the Panamanian Parliament, told Efe.

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The strike of the garbage collectors, which ended this Wednesday after almost a week, demanding better wages and working conditions, once again put the spotlight on an old problem, apparently insurmountable, for Panama City: the generation, collection, management and disposal of waste.

“We reached some agreements, responding to the (Aseo) workers, it was agreed to lift the strike for today, Wednesday, to avoid a public health problem, (to) beautify the city,” the Minister of Health declared on Wednesday. Cheers, Luis Francisco Sucre on local television.


For some people and representatives of the strikers, this is an issue that poses challenges in terms of health, largely because the garbage practically “floods” the main roads and streets of the capital and its outskirts, attracting bad smells and the presence of vermin and flies.

Madrid assured Efe that given the prolonged and growing accumulation of garbage, children are getting sick and the doors of the houses must remain closed because of the flies, which “stick to clothes” and food.

“Right here, a few meters away there is a (bus) stop and you cannot be there because it is full of flies. Here is going to give us an epidemic. Who do we have to call, the World Health Organization? Because it seems that there are no responsible authorities here,” lamented Madrid.

The Ministry of Health denied days ago that the growing number of cases of diarrhea that are occurring in the capital are related to the garbage crisis: these are cases of viral origin, not bacterial, explained the head of the portfolio.

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Elvis Bonilla, another resident of Calidonia, who has lived there for 56 years, attributes the abandonment of the Calidonia corregimiento to corruption without addressing the garbage problem, since “each one (the responsible authorities) throws the ball to the other and neither does anything.}

“Government goes up, Government goes down and we are left in the same situation,” lamented this Panamanian.


Laura Laso, one of the spokespersons for the ‘little ants’, pointed out that a large part of the problem in the poor disposal of garbage by people is the lack of equipment in the Urban and Home Cleaning Authority (AAUD) of Panama.

“We don’t have trucks, we are also fighting for a better salary, uniforms, permanence (jobs) for the ‘little ants’,” as well as gloves, masks and boots, she specified in statements to Efe.

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Efe tried unsuccessfully to obtain statements from the director of the AAUD, Pedro Castillo.

In an appearance before the Legislative Budget Commission at the beginning of this June, Castillo said that the entity is without budgetary resources to be able to provide the service, he accepted that the city is “flooded with garbage” and that this can lead to a “crisis of public health”, according to local media.

A study on the progress of the “Zero Waste Program 2015-2035” of the capital city, which has the support of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), indicates that Panama is among the Central American countries “with one of the higher rates of garbage generation per capita.

Thus, on average, each citizen is generating between 1.0 to 1.2 kg per day, with approximately 2,500 tons of garbage entering the Cerro Patacón open-air dump daily and some 300 tons per day remaining in the streets. and broken without collecting.

The AAUD, for its part, points to the deterioration of its vehicle fleet, with only 30 collector and compactor trucks that are operational, while the rental contracts for backhoes and dump trucks that are also used to collect waste have already expired, alleging that everything lies in a lack of budget.

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