The California Attorney General, the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC), and 12 local prosecutors filed a lawsuit against a major US retail chain for alleged violations of State and Federal hazardous waste regulations.
Prosecutors allege that the company improperly discharged almost 160,000 pounds
of hazardous waste in California each year for the last six years at local landfills. This equates to over one million items illegally disposed of at landfills per year, according to California Attorney General Rob Bonta.
Court documents claim these stores generate a wide variety of hazardous waste items, from its pharmacy and auto care center to its battery and used cell phone collection boxes.
Since 2015, the state has conducted 58 inspections
of trash compactors at stores across California and found dozens of improperly disposed-of items classified as either hazardous waste or medical waste.
The retail giant was also involved in a legal dispute with the California Attorney General’s Office in 2010, when the company agreed to pay $25 million over the illegal disposal of hazardous waste.
Hazardous Waste Challenges for the Retail Sector
This hazardous waste enforcement action underscores the challenges retail stores face when it comes to hazardous waste management compliance.
A typical industrial facility uses, stores, and disposes of the same chemicals day in and day out. Large retailers, on the other hand, may deal with millions
of individual products that, when disposed of, may be hazardous wastes—perfumes, colognes, cosmetics, cleaning products, paints, solvents, pesticides, pharmaceuticals, electronics, returned batteries, and many more.
In retail stores, hazardous waste training
is crucial to get employees up to speed on how to identify hazardous waste and how to manage it, store it, and arrange for disposal in compliance with RCRA.
This is especially true of large chains—where, as this example shows—EPA enforcement can often go beyond one facility to cover operations and hazardous waste mistakes at dozens of stores nationwide, leading to larger penalties and more burdensome environmental projects.
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