In February, during its world tour to raise awareness of the ocean’s preservation, the Race for Water Foundation’s catamaran stayed four days in Panama Bay. On this occasion, SUEZ’s local teams and Race For Water, with the support of the Panama City authorities organized the “Residuos Reciclados, Oceanos Limpios”1 event: four days of conferences and meetings to raise awareness of the importance of effective waste management to fight ocean pollution and preserve marine resources.
A look back at this event with Ana Giros, CEO of SUEZ Latin America, and Marco Simeoni, President of the Race For Water Foundation.
Credits: Josh Sorenson
Credits: Josh Sorenson
What do the oceans mean to you?
Ana Giros: The oceans represent life. Life comes from the oceans, and we must protect them, if we are to continue living on this planet. They play an important role in the food chain, by providing almost 15% of animal protein for more than 4 billion people worldwide. Another crucial point is that they play a major role in terms of climate regulation, notably by absorbing a large amount of the CO2 in the atmosphere.
Marco Simeoni: The oceans are life and the future of our planet. To me, the oceans mean freedom and travel. They also help us to eat and breathe. But today, the oceans have become one huge dustbin. They belong both to everyone and no-one, so this is a complex subject that not enough people are interested in, in my opinion.
SUEZ and Race For Water teamed-up in Panama, was it an obviousness?
Ana Giros: On a local level, it was, because SUEZ has been very active in Panama for several years. I notice that the country becomes more and more aware of the importance of waste management, with some very concrete applications, like the BASURA CERO programme. It was also only natural, because SUEZ is committed to protecting the oceans all over the world. This local partnership with Race For Water is one concrete application of our commitment to the oceans, which is part of the Group’s Sustainable Development roadmap.
Marco Simeoni: What more can I say? SUEZ is a key player in the realm of water treatment. At the Race For Water Foundation, we want to preserve water in the broadest sense, so there is plenty of scope for synergy. Also, we want to prevent waste from ever reaching the water, a goal that is also in line with SUEZ’s waste management activity.
During your stop-over in Panama, which local issues related to waste management and the preservation of marine resources came to light?
Ana Giros: Local sanitation is a very important issue in order to protect Panama Bay, which is currently very polluted. More and more initiatives are being taken to collect solid waste. But now, we need to move on to the next stage, which consists of recovering waste and creating value for Panama.
Marco Simeoni: As far as I am concerned, it was the subject of plastics that caught my attention. This is a key issue for Race For Water. During these four days of conferences, one figure struck me: in Panama, plastic accounts for 19% of waste, compared with a worldwide average of 10%. That is almost twice as much! We really need to work on this subject, through education and awareness-raising.
What conclusions did you draw from these four days of conferences?
Marco Simeoni: Our stay in Panama was a great success, mainly thanks to the “Residuos Reciclados, Oceanos Limpios” event organised by SUEZ, which was our partner during the stop-over. The diversity of the people we met and the quality of the discussions gave us many hopes on Panama’s ability to shift towards a more sustainable waste treatment management. Knowing that Panama City is the second-biggest producer of waste per inhabitant in Latin America, with 1.6kg/day/inhabitant, we realise how important it is to raise public awareness on this problem. By explaining that the oceans are the source of all the life on Earth, and showing the impact of pollution on this essential resource, we can encourage people to behave in a better way. Everyone needs to understand that the best way to combat the ocean’s plastic pollution is to reduce our own production of plastic waste in the first place. We now hope to continue to work in the field with SUEZ by helping the Panama City authorities to provide concrete solutions that prevent plastic waste from reaching the watercourses.
1 – “Recycled waste, clean oceans”