Recycling waste is supposed to be good for the environment, right? Well, it can be a source of potential danger by posing a real border security threat if mishandled, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

That’s why the EPA finalized new regulations on Friday to lend its environmental expertise to the issue of cross-border security for transporting hazardous waste between the U.S., Mexico and Canada.

The new rule, which goes into effect Dec. 31, is part of a major update to the United States’ border security program being spearheaded by U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

The rule adopts strict international standards for controlling cross-border shipments of hazardous, even radioactive, waste between the U.S. and other countries, although 90 percent of the shipments from the U.S. are to Mexico and Canada.

Friday’s final rule will give customs and border protection agents final sign-off on allowing companies to import or export recyclable waste.

Mathy Stanislaus, the head of the EPA’s emergency management office, said the rule is meant to protect communities from mismanagement practices that could harm people on both sides of the border.

“This new rule will provide greater protection to communities from mismanagement of hazardous waste when it is shipped across multiple countries to be disposed or recycled,” Stanislaus said.

Problems arise if spent lead-acid batteries, or some other form of toxic or radioactive waste, arrive at a facility not equipped to recycle or deal with the waste. Stanislaus wrote in a blog that abandoned waste can lead to spills or contamination of nearby communities, presenting real health hazards.

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