California sues Walmart for alleged illegal hazardous waste disposal

California will join 12 district attorneys in suing Walmart, alleging the retail giant has repeatedly violated state laws against hazardous waste disposal over the past six years.

In a press conference Monday, California Attorney General Rob Bonta (D) accused the company of disposing of materials such as lithium and alkaline batteries, LED lightbulbs and pesticides in disposal sites that are not equipped for them.

“We're not talking about a few batteries. … Walmart's own audits found that the company is illegally disposing of hazardous waste in California at a rate of more than 1 million items,” Bonta said.

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The complaint follows a 2010 settlement between Walmart and the California Attorney General’s Office, in which the company agreed to pay $25 million to settle similar allegations.

State investigators inspected trash compactors from Walmart locations across 13 counties on 58 occasions from 2015 to 2021, according to Bonta’s office. During every inspection, they found dozens of items classified as either hazardous or medical waste, along with records containing personal consumer information, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit alleges violations of several state laws, including the Hazardous Waste Control Law, the Medical Waste Management Act, the Customer Personal Information Law and the Unfair Competition Law.

Bonta’s office was joined in the lawsuit by the state Department of Toxic Substances Control, as well as the district attorneys of Alameda, Fresno, Monterey, Orange, Riverside, Sacramento, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Joaquin, Solano, Tulare and Yolo counties.

“No corporation is too big to follow the law and this lawsuit should serve as a warning to the state's worst defenders we will hold you accountable,” Bonta said Monday.

In a statement to The Hill, a Walmart spokesperson said the company has fully complied with the terms of the 2010 settlement.

“We worked with the California Attorney General, District Attorneys, and the Court to build and maintain our comprehensive hazardous waste compliance programs,” the spokesperson said, noting that in 2018 the court agreed on their compliance.

“Yet, as the Court was prepared to relieve Walmart of its obligations under the settlement, the Attorney General’s office launched a new investigation with new rules in hopes that Walmart would enter another settlement requiring another substantial financial payment.”