Walgreens Ordered to Pay $3.5 Million for Improper Disposal of Hazardous Waste at California Stores

Oakland, CA - Alameda County District Attorney Nancy E. O’Malley announced that a $3.5 million stipulated judgment against Walgreen Co. (“Walgreens”) has been approved by the Alameda County Superior Court which settles allegations that Walgreens unlawfully disposed of hazardous waste in violation of state laws and injunctive terms from a 2012 stipulated judgment.

The current settlement follows an investigation by prosecutors of Walgreens’ conduct between 2013 and 2020, during which time prosecutors allege that the company improperly disposed of hazardous waste into company trash bins destined for municipal landfills that are not authorized to accept hazardous waste. The hazardous waste included items such as over-the-counter and prescription medication, electronic devices, batteries, aerosol products, cleaning agents, as well as other hazardous items generated through the company’s regular business activities. This settlement also resolves allegations that Walgreens failed to shred or otherwise destroy customer records containing confidential information before disposal.

“It is essential that we hold companies accountable for causing damage to the environment through improper disposal of hazardous waste,” said DA O’Malley. “The hard work of our prosecutors in this case will result not only in millions of dollars for environmental projects, but the creation of new practices that will lessen the company’s impact in the future.”

This is the second settlement resolving allegations that Walgreens mismanaged hazardous waste at its California pharmacies and retail facilities. In June of 2012, the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office along with several other district attorneys’ offices across the state, filed a complaint in Alameda County alleging that Walgreens violated state statutes and regulations governing the handling and disposal of hazardous waste. That lawsuit was ultimately resolved by a stipulated judgment, entered in December of 2012, for which Walgreens paid $16.57 million in penalties, costs, and funding for supplemental environmental projects, and was required to comply with injunctive terms.

The current stipulated judgment requires Walgreens to pay a total of $3.5 million, which consists of $2.8 million in civil penalties, $300,000 in supplemental environmental projects, and $400,000 in reimbursement of investigative and enforcement costs. In addition, the settlement includes provisions requiring Walgreens to continue to employ four California-based compliance employees to oversee its hazardous waste compliance program and to undergo waste audits in at least five percent of their California facilities to ensure hazardous wastes and confidential consumer information is properly disposed of at all stores. The company must also comply with injunctive requirements regarding hazardous waste management and confidential consumer record protection laws.

Walgreens owns approximately 600 pharmacy and retail facilities in California, 32 of which are located in Alameda County. Walgreens, like all retail stores, is required to properly manage hazardous waste that is generated in the normal course of its retail and pharmaceutical business and to store such hazardous waste in labeled and segregated containers to ensure that incompatible wastes do not combine to cause dangerous chemical reactions.

Walgreens cooperated with the People during its investigation. The instant case resolves violations statewide in California and was prosecuted primarily by the District Attorneys of Alameda, Monterey, Riverside, San Joaquin, Solano, and Yolo Counties, and the City Attorney of Los Angeles.

Contact: ADA Ken Mifsud // Ken.Mifsud@acgov.org // (510) 777-2230

Download the press release as a pdf

Posted on Dec 22, 2020