PANAMA CITY – Cerro Patacon, the final destination for the more than 2,300 tons of trash that the Panamanian capital produces daily, is also a neighborhood and home to dozens of families that earn a living off the declining recycling business.
“Living next to Cerro Patacon has helped us gain access to materials and made the business (recycling) easier, but it’s not simple or pleasant, nobody would like to live here,” Isabel Rodriguez, a middle-aged Panamanian woman who has lived in the community of Guna Nega for over a decade, told EFE.
“We’ve been in this business for 12 years, but this has been the hardest. We’re not making any money. We’re struggling to survive, and feeling totally forgotten,” Rodriguez’s husband said.
Guna Nega is a poor community built on the outskirts of the landfill just outside Panama City.
The dump, which opened in 1985, is full and needs to be overhauled, environmental groups said.
The landfill, which has open areas covered with garbage, belongs to the Urban and Residential Cleaning Authority (AAUD) and its management was handed over to Colombia’s Urbalia a few years ago.
Most of Guna Nega’s residents, many of them of Indian origin or migrants, work in informal recycling businesses, buying reusable materials, such as iron, steel, plastic or aluminum, and reselling them to large recycling companies.
The price of recycled materials has dropped sharply this year in the wake of the Chinese government’s decision to restrict imports of reusable materials, such as plastic.