The agency says its year-long investigation found Whole Foods improperly identified or mishandled hazardous waste at company facilities in Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico and Oklahoma. In addition to correcting the violations and paying penalties, Whole Foods will also promote hazardous waste compliance in the retail industry as part of a supplemental environmental project, or SEP.
Whole Foods, a company known incorporating environmental sustainability into its business strategy, said the products in question include nail polish remover, hand sanitizer, liquor and vitamins. These types of products are classified as hazardous waste when they can no longer be used for their intended purpose. The company said this often occurs when the product is opened and returned by a customer, meaning it can no longer be resold on the stores’ shelves.
“Whole Foods Market takes environmental stewardship extremely seriously,” said Whole Foods GVP Brooke Buchanan in a statement. “By working in partnership with the EPA, we were able to resolve the issues in the five states, enhance our existing environmental management program and extend the rollout of those improved best practices across the company.”
The Whole Foods settlement follows several other recent hazardous waste enforcement actions.
Earlier this month Southern California Edison, one of the nation’s largest electric utilities, agreed to pay a $39,127 penalty to settle federal charges that it improperly managed hazardous waste on Catalina Island.
Comcast recently settled with the state of California — to the tune of $25.95 million — as a result of its “careless and unlawful” hazardous waste disposal practices, which state regulators said put people and the environment at risk. And previously the state reached a $23.8 million settlement with AT&T over similar waste disposal violations.