Hazardous Waste:

U.S. and Mexican Management of Hazardous Waste From Maquiladoras Hampered by Lack of Information

T-RCED-92-22: Published: Nov 21, 1991. Publicly Released: Nov 21, 1991.

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Peter F. Guerrero
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GAO discussed the United States' and Mexico's efforts to manage hazardous wastes produced by foreign companies located in Mexico, known as maquiladoras. GAO noted that: (1) maquiladoras are required to ship hazardous wastes to the countries from which they obtain their source material, but waste can remain in Mexico if it can be recycled and reused in accordance with Mexican law; (2) Mexico's Secretary of Urban Development and Ecology (SEDUE) enforces hazardous waste regulations by requiring facilities to submit semiannual reports on the amounts and types of hazardous wastes generated and waste management and by conducting on-site inspections of maquiladora and hazardous waste facilities; (3) hazardous waste can be received at 19 U.S. points of entry, but the U.S. Customs Service has not established regulations governing the entry of such waste; (4) U.S. and Mexican laws regarding hazardous waste are generally similar, and Mexico is developing additional regulations which will make its regulations more compatible with U.S. regulations; (5) Mexico has taken steps to increase the SEDUE environmental protection budget and has increased its environmental protection staff; (6) neither the United States nor Mexico knows how many maquiladoras are generating hazardous wastes, the amount of hazardous waste generated, or the final disposition of such waste; and (7) until such information is developed, the U.S. and Mexican governments will not be able to effectively implement a cooperative effort to track hazardous waste, as required in their Border Environmental Plan, to jointly solve pollution problems along the border.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: EPA and Mexico have proceeded with developing a computerized binational hazardous waste tracking system with reprogrammed resources. In addition, a team was established to monitor tasks associated with the system's development and implementation. Further, in June 1992, a workplan was developed which addresses timeframes for implementing tasks identified by the team.

    Recommendation: To ensure that the binational database on the generation and disposal of hazardous waste and the tracking system for transboundary shipments are effectively implemented in a timely manner, the Administrator, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), should work closely with SEDUE officials to jointly develop an implementation strategy that identifies the: (1) parties in each country responsible for the strategy's implementation; (2) resources available to carry it out; (3) specific tasks needed to accomplish its goals; and (4) milestones by which those tasks must be accomplished.

    Agency Affected: Environmental Protection Agency

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: On March 5, 1996, EPA and Customs officials signed a formal Memorandum of Understanding setting forth a general framework for enhancing environmental enforcement at the borders by establishing procedures for coordinating joint investigations, exchanging and integrating compliance data, and providing for mutual technical assistance and training. This agreement is intended to serve as a formal basis for facilitating the enforcement of all environmental laws that apply to the import or export of merchandise as regulated under U.S. customs laws, while enabling additional statute-specific cooperative efforts and pilot projects. The agreement expands the scope and terms of interagency cooperation. It contains two annexes covering civil and criminal enforcement. Annex I provides a basic framework covering training, data and information exchange, and compliance monitoring activities. Annex II contains the protocols for EPA-Customs criminal investigations.

    Recommendation: To help ensure that the United States can fully cooperate with Mexico and provide it with information on hazardous waste shipments coming into the United States, the Administrator, EPA, should work with Customs to develop a formal agreement to: (1) have Customs collect and forward to EPA copies of all hazardous waste manifests for shipments received from Mexican hazardous waste facilities; and (2) ensure that Customs requires complete manifests, including the name of the foreign generator and the amount and types of hazardous waste shipped, as a condition for the shipments' entry into the United States.

    Agency Affected: Environmental Protection Agency


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