California officials have sued Walmart for allegedly dumping hazardous waste improperly at municipal landfills over the past six years.
Since February 2015, the retail giant has illegally disposed of waste including alkaline and lithium batteries, insect killer sprays and other pesticides, aerosol cans, toxic cleaning supplies, electronic waste, latex paints, and LED lightbulbs, California Attorney General Rob Bonta, joined by the district attorneys for 12 counties, said in the complaint.
According to results from Walmart’s own inspections, the California Department of Justice estimates the company unlawfully disposes of approximately 159,600 pounds – or more than one million items – of hazardous waste in California each year.
“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 in a news release.
Walmart has more than 300 stores in California. In 2010, the California attorney general reached a $25 million settlement against the company for illegally disposing of hazardous waste.
“Despite the injunctive terms Walmart agreed to as part of the settlement, inspections beginning in 2015 found that Walmart was continuing to conduct operations in California in violation of state laws,” the state said.
Walmart disposes of waste from its stores, pharmacies, and auto repair centers in compactors. According to the suit, California investigators conducted 58 inspections of compactors taken from Walmart stores and, in each and every single case, found dozens of items classified as hazardous waste and medical waste.
“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,” according to the state.
A Walmart spokesman called the suit “unjustified” and accused California of “demanding a level of compliance regarding waste disposal from our stores of common house-hold products and other items that goes beyond what is required by law.”