Hazardous Waste:

Management of Maquiladoras' Waste Hampered by Lack of Information

RCED-92-102: Published: Feb 27, 1992. Publicly Released: Mar 6, 1992.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO compared U.S. and Mexican hazardous waste laws and regulations, resources, and enforcement practices, to determine how the generation and disposal of hazardous wastes from maquiladoras, companies that use materials imported into Mexico to produce finished goods for export, is being managed.

GAO found that: (1) although U.S. and Mexican laws and regulations provide for a comprehensive program to manage hazardous waste, some differences exist; (2) Mexico enacted environmental protection legislation only 4 years ago, and Mexico is still developing regulations and enforcement standards similar to those in the United States for implementing hazardous waste requirements; (3) because U.S. and Mexican organizational structures were different and the total number of Mexican hazardous waste generators were not known, the two countries' resources and enforcement practices could not be fully compared; (4) Mexico has continued to develop its relatively new enforcement program in order to ensure that all companies, including the maquiladoras, comply with hazardous waste requirements; (5) due to inaccurate and incomplete information, neither the United States nor Mexico knew the number of maquiladoras that generate hazardous waste, the amount of hazardous waste generated, or the final disposition of that waste; and (6) the U.S. and Mexican governments will be unable to effectively implement a cooperative effort to track hazardous waste until more accurate and complete information is developed, as called for in the August 1991 draft Integrated Environmental Plan for the Mexico-U.S. Border Area.