ISLA COLON, Panama – The striking four-story turreted castle glistened in the fading afternoon sun, casting an ominous shadow over the dungeon where I’d come to repent for my plastics sins.
This was no ordinary castle: It’s constructed of 60,000 empty plastic water and soda bottles caged in sturdy metal mesh, and stands imposingly at the edge of the snaking road that connects this Caribbean island’s urban hub with majestic golden beaches. Isla Colón is the main island in the Bocas del Toro archipelago, Panama’s prime holiday destination, but I hadn’t come for the surf or rum cocktails. I was here to get inspired.
“Nina you’re a criminal,” said the castle creator, Robert Bezeau, 69, after grilling me on my plastics knowledge – which, given that I consider myself fairly environmentally clued-up, had far more gaps than I’d imagined. “Tonight you must repent your crimes and think about how to work with the planet, rather than against it.”
I had a lot to feel guilty about just from the journey: I was forced to buy bottled water at Mexico City airport as there was no drinking fountain to refill my own, and then ate the limp airplane breakfast with single-use plastic cutlery (that came wrapped in plastic) having forgotten to pack my reusable travel spoon and fork.
“We’re all guilty of crimes against the planet,” said Bezeau grinning widely as he handed me a long-sleeved black and white striped prisoner’s uniform.
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