Recently, Panama's first flexible plastic recycling factory was completed in the Panama Pacific Economic Zone. It is currently the largest flexible plastic recycling processing plant in Central America. The plant is expected to recycle approximately 36 tons of soft plastic waste into plastic wood each month for the production of furniture and other products. It is reported that products made from recycled plastic will be donated to various social welfare projects in Panama to improve the quality of life for underprivileged people.
The project is operated by a foundation called "Love Bottle" in Panama. "Panama is a Latin American country with serious plastic pollution, and recycling plastic helps maintain a balance between consumption and environmental protection in Panama," said Marjory Judly, the president of the foundation.
Judly said that the vast majority of plastic waste generated by people's daily lives is either directly discarded on coastlines and rivers or transported to landfills. Developing a circular economy will have a positive impact on Panama's environment, economy, and cultural education.
The completion of the plastic recycling factory provides a solution to Panama's plastic pollution problem, Judly said. She estimated that the factory could create hundreds of jobs for local residents and provide plastic wood materials for more than 6 million households and over 7,000 parks in Panama over the next 12 years. In addition, the construction of the recycling processing plant will also help reduce carbon emissions in Panama. Judly emphasized that reducing plastic waste requires the joint efforts of individuals, enterprises, and governments.
In recent years, Panama has made positive progress in plastic recycling. In 2018, Panama became the first country in Central America to ban the use of plastic bags through legislation.
According to relevant laws and regulations, supermarkets and all types of commercial establishments in Panama have stopped providing free plastic bags and using less-polluting alternatives. At the same time, fines confiscated for violations will be used to support plastic recycling programs to curb plastic pollution in the marine environment.
Last year, the Panamanian government implemented a new environmental tax policy for plastic recycling, which stipulates that enterprises engaged in plastic recycling and using biodegradable materials to replace plastic can enjoy tax benefits. Related taxpayers can enjoy exemptions from income taxes or income tax incentives, as well as exemptions from dividend taxes, equipment and machinery import taxes, and other preferential measures.
"In Panama, only 3% of plastic waste generated daily is recycled, which is lower than the global average of 9% announced by the United Nations, and this part of the recycled plastic mainly concentrates in the capital Panama City," said Sandy Watemberg, an environmentalist in Panama. "Actively promoting plastic recycling can not only protect the environment, but also make more people aware of the lasting hazards that plastic waste brings to the environment and residents' health, and raise people's environmental awareness."
Watemberg said that as more and more Panamanians and social organizations realize the importance of plastic recycling, the circular economy will become more popular in Panama, but it will still take a long time to build a complete plastic recycling industry chain and produce high value-added recycled products.