Target in the bullseye? Even retailers can have hazardous waste problems

4 Mar 2011

A California judge recently entred an order requiring Target Corp. to pay $22.5 million to settle a lawsuit alleging that the retailer illegally disposed hazardous waste at hundreds of stores throughout the state from 2002 until June of 2009.  In addition to the payment, Target is placed under tight scrutiny to ensure that it properly disposes waste at its nearly 300 stores in California.

Authorities said the Minneapolis-based retailer had no special procedures to dispose of goods such as oven cleaners, aerosols, paint and fertilizers. Companies are required to separate such hazardous items from regular waste. The alleged violations included:

  • An Alameda County Target store sending flammable aerosol canisters, propane canisters, light bulbs containing mercury, corrosive spray cleaners and medical waste to a local landfill not authorized to receive such waste.
  • A San Bernardino County Target store sending a photo processing unit with toxic liquid and other hazardous materials to a local landfill not authorized to receive such waste.
  • A Target employee informing county inspectors that hazardous waste, including pesticides, were routinely disposed of in the store’s trash compactor for transportation to a local landfill not authorized to receive such waste.
  • Multiple Los Angeles County Target stores sent several tons of products that could not be sold to the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank. The shipments contained over 5,000 pounds of damaged, leaking and unusable items with flammable, toxic and corrosive properties. A licensed hazardous waste hauler had to be dispatched to the food bank to properly handle the hazardous waste at a cost of over $5,000.
  • A Sacramento County Target employee dumped leaking containers of liquid pool chlorine into the store’s trash compactor. The chlorine reacted with other chemicals in the compactor and toxic fumes were released into the air requiring the store’s evacuation, an emergency response and several individuals were transported to local hospitals.
  • The moral? All businesses, even retailers, may need hazardous waste compliance programs.

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