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Zero Waste: creating recycling routes in Gunayala, Panama

The IDB, MIT, ANCON and IIDKY will support Guna communities in the improvement of solid waste management in one of Panama’s tourist hotspots

On January 18 the ‘Zero Waste: Recycling Routes in Gunayala, Panama’ project was launched with the goal of improving solid waste management in four islands located in the Guna Yala region (population of 2,100).

To this end, in the framework of the Regional Initiative for Inclusive Recycling (IRR for its Spanish acronym), the IDB, through its Water and Sanitation Division, partnered with MIT’s Community Innovation Lab, the Panamanian NGO National Association for the Conservation of Nature (ANCON for its Spanish acronym) and Kuna Yala’s Instititute for Integral Development, to implement a “zero waste” scheme based on the generation of recycling routes and organic waste treatment through composting technologies to be developed by the MIT and the locals themselves.

Many Guna homes separate aluminum and sell them to informal buyers at approximately 40 cents per kilogram. One of the project’s main objectives is to find a market for other recyclables, especially plastics, which account for a significant percentage of the waste generated in the islands. These new markets, in turn, would allow for the generation of additional income opportunities for the Guna families. The project also seeks to improve the management of the hospital waste generated by the existing health centers in the area.

Tomás Bermúdez, IDB representative in Panama, said that “the project represents a great opportunity to improve waste management in the region and to take advantage of the area’s tourism potential with a focus on sustainability.”

Germán Sturzenegger, IDB’s Water and Sanitation specialist and project leader, emphasized the project’s participatory approach which will involve the beneficiary communities in the search for technology and management solutions.

The IRR is a program that has been implemented in 2011 by the Multilateral Investment Fund (FOMIN) for its Spanish acronym) and the Inter-American Development Bank’s (IDB) Water and Sanitation Division, the Avina Foundation, the Latin American Network for Recyclers (Red-LACRE) and Coca-Cola Latin America with the goal of promoting the integration of informal recyclers in Latin America and the Caribbean into the formal recycling market.

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