Panama has a pretty bad trash problem, it is probably one of the biggest things I hear tourists complain about.  I think part of it is the people that litter and part of it is that is does not get picked up properly.  The trash men that come around to pick up the trash often make a bigger mess than was already there; you can always tell its trash day by the increased amount of litter on the street.  Once I even saw the trash man with a huge stack of flyers that he was throwing one by one into the street like they were confetti.

Autoridad de aseo panama
One of the many bags of trash left on the street

The Autoridad de Aseo has tried to help with the litter on the street by sending out people to sweep up the trash.  But the problem with this is that once their bag is full, they just leave the bag of trash on the sidewalk to be picked up.  It usually will sit there for days or weeks, waiting to be picked up by the trash men, or sometimes they never come to retrieve it.  As someone that lives in Panama, I hate seeing these AA bags on the sidewalks.  I know they are trying to help the problem but this solution is only making Panamas trash problem slightly better.

I recently traveled to Medell­n, Colombia and I was very impressed by how clean their city was.  They have a small trashcan every few feet so it makes it very convenient to throw your trash away.  I think something simple like this could help with the trash problem because right now there is only one trash can every few blocks.

Tu Panama Te Necesita, pig campaign
“Throwing your trash on the earch is throwing the earth in the trash…”

I have also noticed a few campaigns that have started to try to change the culture of Panamanians.  One of the biggest ones have been “Tu Panama Te Necesita (Your Panama Needs You).”  The most memorable one I have seen is an advertisement of someone with the head of a big, indicating that throwing your trash on the ground is bad.  I think it is a step in the right direction and I really hope further ideas to help the trash problem can be implemented.  Panama is already such a great country and it I really hope that the capital can be a clean, modern city.

Experience Panama


I'm Joey, a guy from Louisville, Kentucky that packed up and studied abroad in Panamá at the age of 20 and haven't moved back since. What started as a semester trip to Panamá has turned into 7+ years of living in Latin America and becoming a full-time travel blogger. Follow me on Instagram @joeybonura for more updates on my life abroad!

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