The $11 million reason not to throw hazardous waste into your dumpster

By: Lisa Neuberger

Publication: Environmental Regulatory Alert

Date Posted: 07/31/2019

Illegally disposing hazardous waste

Dumpster diving led to an $11 million settlement for a national auto parts retailer. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced the company, which owns or operates more than 600 stores across the country, had allegedly violated state laws covering hazardous waste, hazardous materials, and confidential consumer information. The company is accused of illegally disposing of millions of hazardous waste items, including used oil and automotive fluids.

dumpster inspections

Between August 2013 and September 2015, personnel from District Attorneys’ offices throughout California conducted 56 dumpster inspections at 49 separate facilities owned by the retailer. The inspectors found batteries, aerosol cans, electronic devices, and hundreds of discarded containers full or partially full of automotive fluids and other regulated hazardous wastes. All of these materials must be handled according to state and federal hazardous waste management and disposal laws and may not be disposed of in the regular municipal trash stream.

It turns out the retailer had been allowing customers to deposit hazardous automotive fluids and other regulated waste into regular trash containers in the stores’ parking lots in 45 counties in California. Officials estimate the retailer illegally disposed of over five million hazardous waste items in the state.

The $11 million settlement is divided into an $8.9 million payment for civil penalties, $1.35 million for supplemental environmental projects, and $750,000 for reimbursing the investigating and enforcing agencies. The company will get a $1 million credit against the civil penalties if it carries out at least $2 million in environmental enhancement work above and beyond legal requirements.

The settlement also calls for the company to undergo a general compliance audit and trash bin audit to ensure hazardous waste and confidential consumer information is properly disposed of all its facilities — and audit results must be made public.

About the author
Lisa Neuberger - EH&S Editor

Lisa joined J. J. Keller & Associates, Inc. in 2008. She serves as a resource for customers on environmental, health, and safety topics, and has a passion for the safe management of hazardous waste. She specializes in OSHA’s workplace injury and illness recordkeeping and reporting, flammable liquids, and sanitation standards and in EPA’s solid and hazardous waste regulations.

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