Summary by Martin
Mowforth from report by El Economista
2 October 2019
Key words: recycling;
incentives; plastics; Bay of Panamá.
On 2 October, El Economista
reported that the government of Panamá was looking for ways of incentivising
recycling. Speaking at an international symposium on sustainability organised
by the Industrial Union of Panamá, the Environment Minister Milciades
Concepción said that recycling by industry is practically nil: “Here we can’t
set up recycling plants because there are no incentives,” he declared.
According to official figures the Bay of Panamá receives
175,000 tonnes of waste each year, much of which is composed of plastics. The
Director of Urban and Household Hygiene Pedro Castillo said that “on recycling
we are years behind.”
Cerro Patacón is the main landfill dump for the city of
Panamá and the 150 informal recyclers who work there find the collection of
plastic material to be less attractive than the collection of other materials
because of the low demand for plastics.
United Nations Environment Programme calculates that in Latin America only 10
per cent of all waste material generated is recycled, and that this rate is
lower in areas of poverty. UNEP also estimates that each year 8 million tonnes
of plastic reach the sea, and that if this continues, by 2050 there will be
more plastics in the oceans than fish.
The following article illustrates the cynical
greenwash deployed by governments in their relationship with environmental
protection. In this case, the government of Guatemala is shown to be the cheating
‘greenwasher’. (Both articles were originally sourced from the Spanish News
Agency EFE and appeared in El Economista. We are grateful to Lucy Goodman for
her translation and summary on behalf of The Violence of Development website.)
El Economista, 20/09/19
words: single-use plastics; Guatemala; repeal on change of government.
September the Government of Guatemala announced the prohibition of the use and distribution
of single-use plastic bags and other plastic items in order to contribute to the
protection of the environment and gave a two-year deadline for adapting to this
Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources published the government
agreement in the official daily newspaper (Diario de Centro America), announcing
the restriction that also applies to plastic straws, plates, cups, containers
and plastic or polystyrene food packaging.
movement does not restrict or limit any municipal initiatives with the same
purpose, as within several constituencies in the country, similar measures have
already been in place for a while. The Ministry of Environment and Natural
Resources will be verifying, inspecting and monitoring compliance with this
legislation itself, and wall train legal persons to apply the corresponding sanctions
only exempt plastic items will be those “for medical or therapeutic
purposes”, as well as imported items that are “factory sealed with
plastic material or expanded polystyrene”.
a photo of a turtle tangled in plastic, the then-president Jimmy Morales celebrated
on social media this decision in which “Guatemala says no to plastic” and affirmed
that this changes the country for future generations to come. “It’s time to
change our form of consumption, for our nation and the future of our children”
in a press conference, the president reiterated his pleasure with this
decision, that there are other products available for use, and that there are
two years to accomplish the transition and find the right substitutes.
about the loss of jobs in the plastics sector, Morales advocated seeing the benefits
and asked for it not to get “dramatic” and “to find a solution
to the issues”.
Plastics Commission of the Guatemalan Exporters Association, formed of 60 manufacturers
and export companies states on the website that the sector creates some 10,000
jobs directly and 60,000 indirectly, and the plastics industry is the “industry
of export, indirectly the most important in the country”. The principle export
destinations of these products are Central America, the Caribbean, the United
States and Mexico.
comment: it is rumoured that President Morales knew that the measure would be
repealed by any right-wing successor to the presidency. Enter stage right:
President Elect Giammattei.]
President-elect of Guatemala to
repeal the agreement to ban plastic.
new President Alejandro Giammattei announced on Wednesday that he would repeal
the agreement that prohibits the use and distribution of single-use plastic
bags, among other products.
usage is not prohibited; there are other more important things to do. We must
focus on culture, education, environmental awareness” declared Giammattei to
the press after he left a meeting with the Chamber of Commerce.
had warned that he would look into this agreement because in his view there is
a “much deeper” problem.
comment: indeed there is; it is the deep corruption within Guatemalan state
politics and the Chamber of Commerce.]
commercial sectors have spoken out against plastics prohibition because they
consider the real problem of contamination is in the management and control of
solid waste, while the Plastics Commission of the Guatemalan Exporters
Association states that 10,000 direct and 60,000 indirect jobs are at risk.