January 18, 2012
In 2003 Von Hernandez won the Goldman Prize for his activism against toxic waste incineration in the Philippines. Thanks in part to his efforts, the Philippines became the first country ever to pass a nationwide ban on waste incineration with the Clean Air Act in 1999, followed shortly thereafter by the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act in 2001.
Together these laws seek sustainable alternatives to waste management and disposal. However, since their ratification, the laws have been vulnerable to constant attacks from incineration industry lobbyist and their sympathizers in the government.
In December, a new type of waste incinerator was making headlines in the Philippines. Incinerators using new high-heat combustion technologies are the industry’s answer to pollution complaints. However, studies have shown that they still release highly toxic trace chemicals such as arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead and mercury.
Von Hernandez insists that “it still makes more ecological sense to recycle discarded materials instead.” He is fighting to secure full implementation of the laws and to curtail loopholes in the legislation.