Panama: meeting Ramon Castro in the midst of the storm

After passing through the San Blas Islands, we left the Caribbean to cross the famous Panama Canal and stop off on the Pacific coast. To everyone’s surprise, our arrival did not go as we had imagined. Demonstrations throughout the country limited our movements, but that didn’t stop us from meeting Ramon Castro, the leader of low-tech plastic processing in Panama.

When we arrived in Panama, Ramon Castro, founder and owner of Ecoplastic Panama, expressed his willingness to meet us despite the country’s turbulent context. Located in the town of ChitrĂ©, his company was a crucial point of interest for our team. However, blockades of the main roads caused by the demonstrations had made travel by car impossible.

After some discussion, Ramon proposed a solution so that we could meet: make the journey by sea. With a small fishing boat, he picked us up to take us on a tour of his business.

Simon, Maxime and Valentin went boating with Ramon, braving the bad weather. After more than 3 hours of waves and heavy rain, the trio finally arrived at the factory, exhausted, but in good company. Against all odds, their expedition led to the surprising discovery of a highly efficient recycling model that had never been observed before.

The story of Ramon Castro, the recycled plastic entrepreneur

From an early age, Ramon has cultivated a passion for DIY, repairing and making objects of all kinds. Self-taught, he taught himself how to build his machines, which are robust, efficient and consume very little electricity. He is currently involved in a project to integrate solar energy to reduce manufacturing costs. In Panama, where electricity comes mainly from gasoline-powered generators, this approach makes sense to offset high costs. As a visionary entrepreneur, Ramon has always been attracted by initiatives geared towards a sustainable future, which led him, in 2019, to found his company specializing in the processing of recycled plastic.

Ecoplastic Panama

Ramon’s production plant is located in a large open-air shed in the middle of nature, surrounded by fields of cows and a few neighbors. Outside, around 5 tonnes of plastic from the city’s landfill are stored in the open air, and are renewed every day by the collectors who supply the plant with recyclable material. Under the tin roof, the machines hum relentlessly day and night, producing around 1.5 tonnes of plastic profiles a day. For Ramon, the aim is not to sell finished products made from recycled plastic, but rather to resell this new raw material to other companies specializing in the manufacture of final objects, as a replacement for wood. Ramon’s expertise also lies in mixing materials to achieve the desired consistency, producing “madera plastica” with a diversity and quality unique to Panama.

Beyond its entrepreneurial success, Ecoplastic employs over 30 people who now enjoy stable, well-paid jobs. This is particularly true of its production manager, who used to be a plastic collector. Today, his quality of life has completely changed. He lives in a small house close to the factory and is given more responsibility with a decent salary to support himself. The quality of life of his employees is of great importance to Ramon, as he too has a family, including two young daughters. Aware of the financial challenges this can entail, he ensures that each member of his team can flourish in a favorable living environment.

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