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The tropical waste dilemma: waste management in Panama

Richard Linowes (Kogod School of Business, American University, Washington, District of Columbia, USA)
Mollie Brown Hupert (University of Washington, Washington, District of Columbia, USA)

International Journal of Emerging Markets

ISSN: 1746-8809

Article publication date: 1 July 2006




The Panamanian Government wants to spur economic development along the shores of the Panama Canal, but inadequate waste disposal capabilities discourage substantial investment. Squatters and scavengers now also live on the largest landfill in the area and their living conditions pose serious public health risks to the entire region. Unchecked trash disposal actually threatens the physical operation of the Panama Canal, essential to the country's and world economy, because clogged rivers and streams prevent the flow of water required to move ships through this passageway connecting Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. A governmental task force is charged with addressing these problems and they have summoned a team of American consultants to recommend an action plan for modernizing and improving the waste management system of the entire inter‐oceanic region. This paper aims to examine this.


Data were collected through field research.


In their research, the IDG consultants found that the typical urban Panamanian had a casual attitude towards waste. Littering was common practice. The waste management industry all over the world seemed to have its share of shady deals, corruption and scavenger activity coupled with atrocious living conditions. The Panamanian situation was no different. The IDG team struggled with the issues and their recommendations for recycling and waste management along the Panama Canal. The four Panamanian governmental representatives would have ultimate authority in deciding whether to implement their recommended course of action.

Practical implications

This field‐based case study explores the range of public and private institutions that might play a role in resolving the waste management problems of the country.


The paper is case study of environmental issues in an emerging market.



Linowes, R. and Brown Hupert, M. (2006), "The tropical waste dilemma: waste management in Panama", International Journal of Emerging Markets, Vol. 1 No. 3, pp. 225-234.



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Copyright © 2006, Emerald Group Publishing Limited