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Importer of Hazardous Waste

Any person who "imports" hazardous waste from Mexico or another foreign country into the United States must have a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) identification number and must comply with various hazardous waste rules.

Hazardous waste regulations, written under the authority of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), are designed to prevent environmental pollution from the time the waste is generated until it is safely disposed of. There are specific rules to follow for the waste generator, transporter and disposal site. Because waste generated in another county cannot be tracked until it enters the U.S., the generator of imported waste is considered by U.S. EPA to be the "importer." This is an important distinction because the importer must therefore meet all the rules applicable to waste generators.

EPA does not strictly define who is the importer. Rather, it can be any party, who helped arrange for the importation (e.g., broker, transporter, disposal facility, etc.). In cases where there is more than one party that could be defined as the importer, the EPA recommends that the parties involved decide among themselves who will act as the importer. However, note that although only one company is the "importer", that all parties involved in the transaction are responsible and liable for the safe handling and disposal of the waste.

The importer's responsibilities include:

  • acquiring U.S. EPA and state identification numbers,
  • preparing a hazardous waste manifest that stays with the waste from the time it enters the U.S. until it is safely disposed of,
  • storing waste properly (e.g., in warehouse),
  • assuring that the waste arrived at its final destination, and
  • reporting and recordkeeping.

In July 2010, EPA revised RCRA regulations regarding the transboundary movement of hazardous wastes, including:

  • requiring U.S. recovery facilities to submit a certificate after recovery of the waste has been completed,
  • adding provisions to ensure that hazardous wastes are returned to the country of export in a more timely and documented manner when it is necessary to do so, and
  • adding new procedures for imported hazardous wastes that are initially managed at U.S. accumulation and transfer facilities to better track and document that subsequent recovery by a separate recycling facility is completed in an environmentally sound manner.

The U.S. treatment/storage/disposal facility (TSDF) receiving a RCRA manifested hazardous waste shipment from a foreign source is required to send EPA a copy of import consent documentation that confirms EPA's consent for that import along with a copy of the RCRA manifest for the import shipment. The matched import consent documentation and RCRA manifest must be submitted by the U.S. TSDF within 30 days of shipment delivery. Consent documentation supplied by EPA will clearly identify the waste stream, the specific foreign source, and the allowable time period and maximum quantity of waste.

More information on the July 2010 RCRA revisions.

Many of the rules pertaining to hazardous waste are enforced by state agencies. Although the rules are generally the same from state to state, there are some differences, such as forms, registration requirements and reporting requirements. To learn about state rules, use the pull-down menu and select the state where the waste will cross the border into the U.S. Presently, information is only available for Arizona, California and Texas.


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