Urban Ocean: Panama City

Urban Ocean is helping Panama City identify gaps in its solid waste management system towards enhancing the recovery of recyclable material in the city.
Jun 2022

Panama City is the capital and most populous city of Panama. The city is located at the Pacific end of the Panama Canal. The growth of Panama City is partly a result of its relationship with and changes occurring in its water ecosystems. With climate change increasing the probability of natural hazards, floods are becoming even more recurrent. In 2016, an estimated 1.2 kg of waste was generated per day, per capita in Panama. While these numbers indicate a major waste management challenge for Panama City, the full picture can only be captured by including the city’s high vulnerability to a wide range of shocks and stresses that include extreme natural events, unsustainable tourism practices, lack of reliable data, and others, in addition to the governance-related limitations.

Through the Urban Ocean program, Panama City aims to identify gaps in its solid waste management system that contribute to leakage and leverage opportunities towards enhancing the recovery of recyclable material in the city.

Impact Story: From marine plastic to public living rooms, Panama City is recycling with resilience

Only 2% of around 34,000 tons of waste is recycled in Panama City, and a large amount of uncollected waste often ends in rivers and drains, leading to flooding during the rainy seasons.

The City of Panama is recycling its marine debris plastic and transforming it into furniture for public spaces around the city—approximately 60 tons of marine plastic are getting a second life and avoiding reaching Cerro Patacón, the only landfill in the city.

The Urban Ocean program provided knowledge and seed funding for the city to develop the solution. The project is a multisector collaboration between the Resilience Office and the Environmental Office of the Municipality in partnership with the Botellas de Amor Foundation.

Read Panama City’s Impact Story

Project Statement

Enhance the Recovery of Recyclable Material in Panama City focuses on balancing short-term actions that demonstrate the value of recycled material with longer-term structural solutions to strengthen the recycling industry in the city and promote green jobs and equity, decreasing the amount of waste generated.

The Project Statement outlines the city’s vision for the project and the impact it aims to achieve, highlighting the urgency of the issue and the importance of taking immediate action.

Read Panama City’s Project Statement

Circularity Assessment Protocol (CAP) Report

Between October 2020 and March 2021, a team from Centro de Estudios y Acción Social Panameño (CEASPA), with guidance and support from the Circularity Informatics Lab, conducted fieldwork in the city of Panama City, Panama.The CAP was conducted with support from the city’s local government, Resilience Officers, and the larger Urban Ocean team.

The CAP, developed by the Circularity Informatics Lab at the University of Georgia, is a standardized method of collecting community-level data on plastic usage to inform decision-makers. 

Read Panama City’s CAP Report

Read Panama City’s CAP Report (Spanish)

Case Study

Panama City has a high ratio of incorrectly disposed waste, reaching its rivers and the sea. To prevent solid waste further polluting its water bodies, the City partnered with a not-for-profit to install waste containment barriers, preventing waste dumped in the rivers from reaching the ocean where it would be harder to intercept. The solution was localised through a participatory approach with a broad range of city stakeholders and the process focused on raising awareness about solid waste disposal.

The case study series aims to highlight good examples in resilient urban waste management from across the world.

Read Panama City’s Case Study

Urban Ocean is a capacity-building and accelerator program to end ocean plastic pollution and build more resilient communities in cities. Urban Ocean champions circular economy principles, builds awareness of ocean plastic, assesses waste management systems and supports cities to develop projects that address the interrelated challenges of ocean plastics and resilience. Since 2020, the program has been implemented in cities across Asia and Latin America. The program is jointly implemented by Resilient Cities NetworkOcean Conservancy and The Circulate Initiative.

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