OAKLAND – California Attorney General Rob Bonta today, joined by the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) and twelve district attorneys, 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, electronic waste, latex paints, and LED lightbulbs, as well as confidential customer information. According to results from Walmart’s own inspections, the California Department of Justice estimates the company unlawfully disposes of approximately 159,600 pounds – or more than one million items – of hazardous waste in California each year.
“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 Rob 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.”
“Despite repeated enforcements against Walmart over the past two decades, it consistently – and knowingly – fails to comply with California’s environmental protection laws,” said Dr. Meredith Williams, DTSC Director. “DTSC will vigorously pursue justice in this and all mismanagement of hazardous waste – particularly by repeat offenders, and most especially in communities forced to suffer the consequences of industrial pollution, generation after generation.”
“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 Alameda County District Attorney Nancy 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.”
“Californians expect and deserve that our laws will be enforced consistently and against all who violate them, including big business,” said Fresno County District Attorney Lisa Smittcamp. “This cooperative enforcement action represents a critical first step in putting offenders on notice and holding them accountable for violations of our environmental protection laws.”
“Violations of California’s hazardous waste laws endanger workers and the integrity of our landfills and groundwater,” said Monterey County District Attorney Jeannine M. Pacioni. “We are committed to bringing businesses into compliance with these laws to protect public safety.”
“ Our office was an integral partner alongside other counties and the California Department of Justice,” said San Bernardino County District Attorney Jason Anderson. “We are committed to ensuring protection of the public and the environment from violations of hazardous waste laws.”
“The illegal dumping and disposal of hazardous materials adversely impacts every member of our community and causes irreparable harm,” said San Joaquin County District Attorney Tori Verber Salazar. “We must hold violators, including retail conglomerates, accountable to ensure the safety and well-being of our communities.”
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.
In the lawsuit, Attorney General Bonta and the district attorneys allege that Walmart violated the Hazardous Waste Control Law, the Medical Waste Management Act, the Customer Personal Information Law, and the Unfair Competition Law.
Attorney General Bonta is joined by the California Department of Toxic Substances Control and the district attorneys of Alameda, Fresno, Monterey, Orange, Riverside, Sacramento, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Joaquin, Solano, Tulare, and Yolo counties in filing the lawsuit.
A copy of the lawsuit is available here.