It’s often misunderstood what happens to hazardous waste transport regulations at the U.S.-Mexico border.
While the United States has robust hazardous waste laws in place to protect the public during transport, companies often wonder whether those tough laws extend to and beyond the border. The good news is that they do. Mexico has its own set of hazardous waste transport regulations, many of which are modeled after regulations in the United States.
Transporting hazardous waste to Mexico is safe for waste generators thanks to strong regulations on both sides of the border and a transfer of cradle to grave liability.
Enforcement On Both Sides
Residents who live on both sides of the border want assurance that they don’t have to worry about toxic waste spills, unmanaged landfills or waste accumulation along the sides of their roadways.
Enforceable regulations on both sides have allowed for the infrastructure to be created that ensures hazardous waste is managed in a responsible manner.
Mexico has patterned its hazardous waste enforcement agencies after U.S. agencies that are tasked with protecting the environment and public from hazardous waste.
For example, the United States has the Environmental Protection Agency and Mexico has an agency called SEMARNAT, or the Secretariat of Environment and Natural Resources. The United States has OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration), while Mexico has the STPS (Secretariat of Labor and Social Welfare). The United States has the Department of Transportation (DOT), while Mexico has SCT (Secretariat of Communications and Transportation).
When forming all of these agencies, Mexico created them using U.S. regulations as a baseline. Mexico then modified them to address the specific needs of its own country.
While Treatment Storage and Disposal Facilities (TSDFs) must adhere to strict regulations in the United States, the same can be said for these types of facilities in Mexico as well. Audit teams of five inspectors tour TSDFs and check them for any violations. Because five inspectors must sign off on each report, there are few opportunities for fraud and abuse.
Regulations in both the United States and Mexico state that facilities like Temarry that accept hazardous waste must hold several permits to operate. These permits can be found in our article, Shattering 4 Myths About Hazardous Waste Regulation In Mexico.
Protection At The Border
The U.S. and Mexican agencies have developed a rigorous border inspection process to ensure that environmental and hazardous waste transport laws are followed on both sides of the border.
Here is how the border crossing process works when Temarry transports a company’s hazardous waste to our TSDF in Tecate, Mexico:
- When trailers arrive at the Temarry yard in Otay Mesa in San Diego County, Temarry personnel prepare each load for export. This process can take three to five days.
- Temarry personnel confirms that the physical count of containers matches the manifest count. There are typically 20 to 30 manifests on one load. Temarry often picks up as the second transporter, while service companies are the first transporter. This is why it’s important for our crews to confirm all manifest counts are correct.
- After counts are confirmed, all manifests are scanned and sent to our home office so that all necessary border documents can be prepared. Regulations state that documents such as Mexican hazardous waste manifests and Spanish hazardous waste labels must be prepared.
- After these documents are prepared in the Tecate office, they are printed in the San Diego office for the next day’s shipments. Temarry personnel place the necessary Spanish labels on each container. Transport vehicles must have both U.S. and Mexican license plates, as well as be permitted by PROFEPA, or Procuraduría Federal de Protección al Ambiente, to transport hazardous waste into Mexico.
- From the Temarry truck yard in Otay Mesa, a border crossing driver from Temarry’s Mexican company, Recicladora Temarry, begins the process of transporting the hazardous waste load across the border.
So what happens then? Crossing the border typically takes from one to four hours. Regulations state that all paperwork is reviewed by U.S. Customs, which also provides a cursory inspection of the load. The truck then either progresses into Mexico or is re-routed to the hazardous materials border yard at the international border for further inspection.
After clearing U.S. Customs, trucks then undergo an inspection by Mexican agencies that look similar to U.S. inspections. Sometimes these inspections involve paperwork. Others are more thorough and can take two to three hours to complete.
From there, waste arrives at Temarry’s Mexican facility 45 minutes later. It is here that handling codes are applied in block 19 and shipments are signed as received in block 20 of the U.S manifest. The generator’s copy of the manifest is returned directly to the generator within 30 days of receipt of the waste. This completes the written chain of custody Cradle to Grave documentation that all TSDFs must provide to be in compliance with regulations.
Once the waste arrives, Temarry combines solvent distillation, a waste to energy process and a water treatment process to create a closed loop recycling system. This process offers “True Recycling” for industrial solvents, organic solids and water-based hazardous waste.
- Temarry’s waste to energy plant converts high BTU organic solids to steam to be used as energy on site.
- The solvent distillation unit utilizes steam from the waste to energy process as energy to power the recovery stills. Through distillation, spent solvents are re-manufactured and sold back into industry for their original solvent properties.
- A water treatment system extracts usable water from industrial hazardous wastes, including acids, bases, coolants, oily water and latex paint. Treated water is used on site for industrial needs including WTE and the cooling tower.
By using hazardous waste streams previously earmarked for landfills or cement kiln fuel blending, Temarry offers a sustainable recycling process just across the border while delivering reusable solvents back to industry.
Cradle To Grave Regulations
As we mentioned above, some of the most important regulations that hazardous waste generators must follow involve cradle to grave liability.
What is cradle to grave liability? According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the government agency “established a comprehensive regulatory program to ensure that hazardous waste is managed safely from ‘cradle to grave,’ meaning from the time it is created, while it is transported, treated and stored, and until it is disposed.”
In other words, Cradle to Grave responsibility is used to describe the fact that any person who generates a waste material that is classified as a hazardous substance is responsible for that waste from the time it is generated until it is disposed of. There is no time limit or expiration date that will release a generator from this long-term management responsibility.
If you generate hazardous waste, you are responsible for its proper off-site transportation and disposal. However, when transporting hazardous waste to Mexico through Temarry Recycling, your liability for your waste ends at the U.S. border.
At the border, Temarry Recycling becomes the Principal Responsible Party in the United States. Recicladora Temarry de Mexico accepts generator liability in Mexico. The moment your shipment crosses the border, this is the “grave” in the Cradle to Grave process. All future liability from the waste stream is eliminated.
Regulations Ensure Hazardous Waste Transports Are Safe
Hazardous waste generators should feel comfortable that their waste shipments are in good hands when transporting their waste across the Mexican border to Temarry’s TSDF facility.
All environmental regulations, which continue across the U.S.-Mexico border, are followed. Multiple governmental agencies scrutinize each load that crosses the border as well. Furthermore, the burden of the cradle to grave liability falls upon Recicladora Temarry de Mexico, the importer, and not you, the generator.
In fact, for more than two decades, Temarry Recycling has had the legal authority, given to us by the U.S. EPA and the Government of Mexico, to legally transport RCRA, non-RCRA and non-hazardous waste to our designated facility in Mexico.
The EPA issued an Acknowledgement of Consent (AOC) to Temarry that certifies to the waste generator that the EPA has done its due diligence to confirm with the Government of Mexico that Recicladora Temarry has all the necessary permits, is in good standing and is authorized to receive transported waste.
Temarry Recycling must also submit a new Notice of Intent every year to the EPA to request that a new AOC is granted for the following year.
With all applicable requirements met and the necessary permits for transportation in place, hazardous waste generators can rest assured that their waste is safely transported across the border.