Over the past six years, Walmart violated California’s environmental laws and regulations by disposing of hazardous waste products at local landfills that aren’t equipped or authorized to receive this type of waste, the lawsuit charges. The waste includes alkaline and lithium batteries, insect killer sprays and other pesticides, aerosol cans, toxic cleaning supplies, electronic waste, latex paints, and LED light bulbs, as well as confidential customer information.
The California Department of Justice estimates the company unlawfully disposes of about 159,600 pounds – or more than one million items – of hazardous waste in California each year, according to results from Walmart’s inspections.
“From there, these products may seep into the state’s drinking water as toxic pollutants or into the air as dangerous gases,” said California Attorney General Rob Bonta.
When tens of thousands of batteries, cleaning supplies, and other hazardous waste are dumped in landfills, the impact to the environment and communities can be huge, Bonta said.
In 2010, the California Attorney General’s Office reached a $25 million settlement against Walmart for illegally disposing of hazardous waste. Despite the 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, according to the lawsuit.
From 2015 to 2021, California investigators conducted 58 inspections across 13 counties of trash compactors taken from Walmart stores. In each case, they found dozens of items classified as hazardous waste, medical waste, and/or customer records with personal information.
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, Bonåçta said.
Among the district attorneys participation in the lawsuit are those from of Monterey, Orange, Riverside, Sacramento, San Bernardino, and San Diego counties.