Lawsuit alleges Walmart repeatedly violated several environmental laws
OAKLAND – Alameda County District Attorney Nancy E. O’Malley, California Attorney General Rob Bonta, along with 11 district attorneys throughout the state, and the California Department of Toxic Substances Control filed a statewide lawsuit against Walmart for the illegal disposal of hazardous waste.
Over the past six years, Walmart is alleged to have violated California’s environmental laws and regulations by disposing of hazardous waste products at local landfills that are not equipped or authorized to receive this type of waste. The waste includes alkaline and lithium batteries, insect killer sprays and other pesticides, aerosol cans, toxic cleaning supplies, acrylic paints, and mercury-containing LED lightbulbs, as well as confidential customer information. According to Walmart’s own estimates, the company unlawfully disposes of approximately 159,000 pounds – or more than one million items – of hazardous waste in California each year.
“Walmart is a repeat offender of California’s hazardous waste laws and this case underscores the importance of dedicating prosecutorial resources to the protection of our environment,” said DA O’Malley.
“The Environmental Protection division of the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office will continue to make efforts to ensure that any business in this county found to have violated hazardous waste laws will be investigated, and, when appropriate, brought to justice.”
“Today, I’m announcing that my office will launch a public outreach campaign, where we will work with businesses, local chamber of commerce’s, and other organizations to remind businesses of their obligations in terms of disposing waste and following the law,” DA O’Malley said.
Attorney General Bonta pointed out the danger of the accumulation of this hazardous waste.
“Walmart’s own audits found that the company is dumping hazardous waste at local landfills at a rate of more than one million items each year. From there, these products may seep into the state’s drinking water as toxic pollutants or into the air as dangerous gases,” said Attorney General Bonta.
“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. 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.”
In 2010, the California Attorney General’s Office reached a $25 million settlement against Walmart 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.
From 2015 to 2021, California investigators conducted 58 inspections across 13 counties of trash compactors taken from Walmart stores. In each and every single case, they found dozens of items classified as hazardous waste, medical waste, and/or customer records with personal information. Yet 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.
The lawsuit alleges that Walmart violated the Hazardous Waste Control Law, the Medical Waste Management Act, the Customer Personal Information Law, and the Unfair Competition Law.
Also joining DA O’Malley and AG Bonta in filing this lawsuit are the District Attorney’s of Fresno, Monterey, Orange, Riverside, Sacramento, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Joaquin, Solano, Tulare, and Yolo.
Contact: Public Information Officer Angela Ruggiero // Angela.Ruggiero@acgov.org // (510) 919-0081