Walmart Faces California Lawsuit Over Hazardous Waste and Consumer Information

This month, the California attorney general and various district attorneys in the state have sued Walmart in state court regarding its practices for disposing of hazardous waste and medical waste. The giant retailer allegedly has dumped materials such as aerosol cans, batteries, lightbulbs, and insecticide in California landfills over the last several years. The lawsuit is based on 60 inspections of Walmart trash compactors across the state, which started in 2015. The hazardous waste allegedly came from Walmart retail stores, pharmacies, auto repair centers, claims departments, collection boxes, and trash bins, among other locations.

Walmart previously faced a civil enforcement action regarding its disposal of hazardous waste in 2010. This arose when a Walmart employee was found dumping bleach down a drain. In the resolution to the civil enforcement action, the retailer paid millions of dollars in penalties and agreed to stop dumping hazardous waste in California landfills. However, the new lawsuit suggests that Walmart continues to violate environmental protection laws in the state. The lawsuit seeks financial penalties in an unspecified amount.

In addition, the lawsuit claims that Walmart has disposed of confidential customer information from hundreds of its stores in landfills. This may have violated state laws requiring companies to make this information unreadable before disposing of it. The lawsuit does not specify the types of confidential information that were found. Walmart responded that it has developed processes for protecting customer information and was unaware of any incidents supporting these claims.

Representatives of the retailer also have maintained that it has complied with the terms of the settlement in the enforcement action. Walmart claims that California is trying to subject it to a standard for waste disposal that goes beyond legal requirements. It plans to fight back against the lawsuit.

Photo Credit:  Ken Wolter /