Volunteers collect trash from Panama beaches to raise awareness

Panama City, Sep 18 (EFE).- Three volunteers, slowly walking over the mud, Saturday carried the remains of a sofa that the ocean brought near one of the coasts of Panama City with tons of trash.

The garbage discarded by the Pacific Ocean is piling up in Costa del Este of the Panamanian capital.

And on Saturday, dozens of volunteers, including ambassadors and diplomats of the European Union, gathered to collect the trash and contribute their bit on the International Coastal Cleanup Day.

Amid the tropical heat, about 250 volunteers —including teenagers and children — removed nearly three tons of plastics, fabric, and wood.

“We need to raise awareness from a young age. I asked my daughter this morning if she would prefer to go to a swimming pool or clean the beach. She told me she wanted to save the planet,” Mariana Garcia, a 35-year-old volunteer, told EFE.

Trash is constantly accumulating on the east coast, rich in biodiversity with mangrove trees that store vast amounts of carbon and are vital in the fight against climate change.

Heaps of garbage get collected despite efforts by organizations to clean up the area and install tools to trap the waste.

“We see that (the ocean) traps the trash. There is a process of filtration through plants, which creates a kind of mesh that traps it and leaves it in this place,” said Aubrey Baxter, a coordinator of the Mimar Foundation that organized the event.

To remove the trash, they formed a human chain passing from one person to the other the bags filled with waste, which will then go to Cerro Patacón, the largest dump in the capital and the country.

“We work with a collector, but it depends on what we get. There are days when we only take out plastic and we use it to recycle. But today, we are taking out general garbage and almost everything will go to Cerro Patacón,” Baxter said.

An Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) report has found 2,500 tons of waste produced every day in Panama City.

Only 5 percent is recycled, even as 70 percent of the waste is reusable.

“We are cleaning beaches around the world. It is a day of awareness to tell people that you cannot continue like this and you have to protect our beaches. Prevention is the most important thing,” European Union Ambassador Chris Hoornaert told EFE.

Hoornaert, other ambassadors, and staff from the embassies of Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, and Hungary, joined the initiative to collect the waste, wearing gloves and carrying black dustbags.

“(Panama) is a country with great biodiversity and we have to maintain that,” said the diplomat, reiterating that they were supporting the Central American country “with awareness and programs.”

“The unfortunate thing is that the trash does not come from the buildings in the area, but from the interior. That is why we must take measures that prevents garbage from reaching to the sea,” Hoornaert said.

“Panama has many opportunities and has to take care of its beaches.” EFE


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