OVER 800 PRISONERS in Panama’s notorious La Joyita prison are part of a society re-integration program that helps the environment, the prison budget and reduces violent incidents inside its walls.
It started in 2014, when a prisoner in the minimum security wing created Ecosólido, a project for recycling solid and organic waste while inculcating good customs, a sense of belonging and responsibility to those participating, and allowing them to earn extra remission time.
Each month, prisoners recycle approximately eight tons of waste collected by the Municipality of Panama.
The day starts with the collection of plastic bottles aluminum cans and organic materials (cooked foods, and shells) from the prison pavilions housing 4,630 inmates, reports La Prensa.
Once all the wastes are concentrated in an area called “the catwalk”, another group segregates them. “The solids go to one side and the organic ones go to another,” explains Víctor Soriano, one of the seven coordinators of the initiative.
Heat and humidity increase as the hours of the day pass, but work continues and prisoner crush aluminum cans into thin sheets with a tool they invented.
Labels are removed from plastic bottles which are sliced in two parts and compressed.
The materials are deposited separately in giant bags. which are collected each month by the municipality and taken to recycling companies, “explains Soriano, who says that they are aware that from prison they can help combat one of the biggest problems of the world: pollution.
Monthly the Municipality of Panama removes six 160- kilogram sacks of aluminum), ten 136- kilogram sacks of plastic and four 158-kilogram sacks of scrap.
On average, two and a half tons of waste solids are sorted each month, composted and converted into high quality fertilizer.
One hundred 100 quintals are produced each month, which has aroused interest outside the country.
This year experts in agricultural affairs from a university in Geneva Switzerland, will visit La Joyita to study the consistency of the fertilizer which is used in prison gardens to grow tomatoes, cucumbers, papayas, bananas, passion fruit, watermelon, cassava and more, for consumption by the prisoners.
The fertilizer is also used in another area where they grow a wide variety of trees and plants.
Regeneration The symbol of Ecosolido is a salamander, an amphibian of 20 centimeters harmless to the humans which has the ability to regenerate.
“We are like the salamanders. We are regenerating. We know that we are not perfect, we have made mistakes and we are doing everything we can to be helpful for
our Panama, ” Michael Sherman, one of the inmate coordinators of the initiative told La Prensa.
Sherman claims that Ecosolido has changed his life. “In addition to contributing to the environment, this serves as a basis for us to perform and earn a living once we re-intergrate into society” he says.