Walmart accused of illegally dumping 1 million toxic items in landfills each year

The giant retailer allegedly dumps literal tons of batteries, aerosol cans, toxic cleaning supplies, and electric waste into landfills, according to a lawsuit.

Sparks Nevada, USA - October  9, 2021: Walmart Distribution Center located in the Tahoe Reno Industr...
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You probably wouldn’t be surprised to learn that each year, more than 1 million toxic items end up illegally dumped in landfills. You might be a little more shocked to learn that it’s all from one company. According to a lawsuit filed this week by California Attorney General Rob Bonta, Walmart is accused of single-handedly contributing a million pieces of hazardous waste into California’s landfills alone — so just imagine what the company must be doing nationwide.

The state of California has been keeping tabs on Walmart’s waste disposal habits for a while now. According to the lawsuit, state inspectors have carried out 58 checks in 13 different counties since 2015, where they examined the waste taken from Walmart stores and placed in trash compactors. They found hazardous waste in every single inspection.

The most common waste included pesticides, electronics, and other household hazardous waste. In some cases, inspectors found medical waste that was improperly disposed of. Troublingly, Walmart’s disposal issues go beyond just toxicity and pollution: Some of the inspections also turned up customer records that included personal information that should have been destroyed or redacted before being thrown out.

Walmart has essentially tried to brush off the allegations, claiming that it has conducted its own audits and found that the amount of items of potential concern in its trash compactors is below the state’s average. But Bonta disagrees, claiming that Walmart’s own inspections show that the retail giant disposes of nearly 80 tons of toxic waste each year, amounting to more than 1 million individual items that end up in landfills.

Any toxic waste finding its way to landfills can spell bad news for people, animals, and the planet. People living near landfills tend to have worse health outcomes, including suffering from health conditions like asthma, recurring flu, and other issues. Toxic waste in particular can decompose and start to leak, contaminating soil and water. This can make its way into drinking water, which is absolutely not good. The toxic materials can also lead to more air pollution generated by the landfill, resulting in the release of damaging greenhouse gases like methane and carbon dioxide. Basically, putting toxic waste in a landfill is an environmental nightmare, and Walmart appears to be a bad dreams machine.

The allegations made against Walmart probably shouldn’t come as a surprise. Big box stores pollute all the time. Amazon reportedly puts 22 million tons of plastic in the oceans each year, for instance. And this isn’t even the first time California has caught Walmart behaving badly: In 2010, the state sued Walmart for dumping hazardous products in local landfills and got the company to pay $25 million for damages.

But there’s just something so audacious about Walmart refusing to play by the rules. We expect people to abide by these rules, carefully disposing of their potentially hazardous goods in order to keep everyone safe. For Walmart, the wealthiest company in the country, to repeatedly fail to comply with the same rules the rest of us have to follow just adds insult to some pretty significant injury.