Kuna Yala

July 2010

Waste management system for Carti Island communities

Kuna Yala is an autonomous territory or comarca in Panama, inhabited by the Kuna indigenous people. Kuna Yala is 924 square miles and has a population of 36,487 people (2004). About 36 of the comarca’s 365 islands are inhabited by Kuna communities, with an additional 13 communities located on the mainland coast. Kuna Yala also houses a biosphere reserve, the Narganá Protected Area, which covers 386 square miles. Kuna Yala´s beaches are one of the least impacted and best protected nesting grounds for the critically endangered leatherback sea turtle.

Carti is a group of island communities totalling about 1,000 residents located in the western side of the Kuna Yala Indigenous Territory. Relatively easy access to Carti and the incredible beauty of its white sand beaches are the main reasons that tourism has significantly increased. Tourism has brought a problem: a major increase in garbage.

Seacology is providing equipment for a comprehensive waste management and recycling system for the five island communities where the Kuna have installed homestay facilities. In exchange for the equipment, the Kuna Indigenous Congress, along with the Carti community leadership, will draft waste management regulations for the area, comprising more than 7,413 acres of marine, island, and coastal habitat. It is expected that the improvised landfills and the pollution they bring will begin to disappear, helping secure the long-term survival of this mostly pristine natural environment and turning tourism into a more sustainable and less polluting economic activity.

Full or partial funding for this project provided by
Seacology UK.
Project Updates
July 2014
Seacology received a final report for the project, detailing the success in establishing the permanent landfill in Arega and the amendment of the local constitution to legally enshrine a...
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June 2013
According to Field Representative Lenin Riquelme, ‘Delivery of equipment has been long completed as plastic bottle crushers and weighing scales have been already handed to local island health...
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May 2012
On March 27, equipment including can crushers, trash baskets, paper and plastic cutters, plastic bottle crushers, plastic bags, and gloves were distributed to specific strategic locations. These...
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June 2011
Now that repairs to the roads after the floods have finally been completed and the Kuna Congress has issued permission to proceed, delivery of equipment has recently started. One mid-sized truck...
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December 2010
According to Field Representative Lenin Riquelme, all equipment needed to establish the waste management system has been purchased, including 18 can crushers, 12 manual shredders, 12 plastic...
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September 2010
Field representative Lenin Riquelme reports that he traveled to Kuna Yala to meet with the community leaders who agreed on a project work plan, installment schedule and fiscal administrator but...
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