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California files lawsuit against Walmart for alleged improper waste disposal

Walmart said it’s been following the terms of an earlier lawsuit about the same issue

Walmart store
Photo (c) Alan Schein Photography - Getty Images
The State of California has filed a lawsuit against Walmart, alleging that the company improperly disposed of products that are considered hazardous waste.

Attorney General Rob Bonta says Walmart has been filling local landfills that are ill-equipped or authorized to handle alkaline and lithium batteries, pesticides, aerosol cans, toxic cleaning supplies, electronic waste, latex paints, and LED light bulbs for the last six years. He cited data from Walmart’s own inspections that show the company unlawfully disposes of more than one million hazardous waste items in California each year.

While typical hazardous waste is bad enough, Bonta’s team said Walmart may have also thrown out customer records with personal information. 

“When one person throws out a battery or half-empty hairspray bottle, we may think that it's no big deal. But when we’re talking about tens of thousands of batteries, cleaning supplies, and other hazardous waste, the impact to our environment and our communities can be huge,”  Bonta said. 

“This lawsuit should serve as a warning to the state's worst offenders. We will hold you accountable. As the People’s Attorney, taking on corporate polluters and protecting public health will always be among my top priorities.”

Walmart doesn’t agree

Naturally, Walmart is defending itself. But rather than making an effort to get in compliance with California’s law, it claims that its corporate sustainability achievements and its past criminal and civil penalty payments fulfill its compliance responsibilities. 

The company said it previously met the requirements of a settlement stemming from a 2010 lawsuit over disposal law non-compliance – one that cost it $25 million to settle. 

E-Scrap News reported that Walmart provided it with data on the amount of regulated waste that was rerouted from its compactors in recent years. That data showed that from 2011 through 2020, the company diverted 40 tons of consumer batteries, 2.8 tons of cell phones, another ton of fluorescent lamps, and larger amounts of materials like tires and vehicle batteries.

The company even provided a court transcript from 2018 showing that the California Attorney General’s office agreed that the retail chain had met its obligations at that point.

However, Bonta’s office didn’t agree and called Walmart a “repeat offender” of disposal violations. 

“Instead of trying to come into compliance with the law, Walmart claims that its corporate sustainability achievements and its past criminal and civil penalty payments fulfill its compliance responsibilities,” Bonta’s office said in a statement.

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