Between the summer and the fall of 2011, investigations in San Diego and surrounding cities were made into the way Walgreens was handling the way it disposed hazardous waste. Of the 37 stores that were monitored, 34 of them were found to be out of compliance with state law in regard to how they got rid of this refuse. These stores included three locations in San Diego County. Apparently employees were tossing waste such as automotive products, paint, aerosols, bleach, pesticides and other toxic substances into their dumpsters along with the everyday trash they were disposing of at their stores. This waste was then taken to landfills and subsequently dumped with the other trash, which can cause serious issues and it raised a warranted amount of concern with the City Attorney’s Office of Los Angeles and citizens around the area.
Other counties to file civil enforcement lawsuits against Walgreens included Alameda, Riverside, San Joaquin, Solano, Monterrey, and Yolo counties. The settlement for this lawsuit cost Walgreens $16.57 million dollars and also included the improper disposal of customer records that contained medical information which is, of course, confidential information. Walgreens had apparently been acting in similar fashion as with hazardous waste and throwing out these documents with the daily trash. The hazardous waste in San Diego and across the state produced by Walgreens is now being handled by a state-registered hauler that deals with that sort of debris in the proper fashion. The lawsuit has caused investigators to start going through the dumpsters and investigating waste removal practices of CVS Pharmacy, Target, and Home Depot as well. One would hope that this will bring about a major change in the practices of companies across the country when it comes to responsible waste removal and handling.
Situations such as these bring into focus the important issue of proper waste disposal techniques and practices. If major retailers and stores across the country are merely throwing all of their refuse out in the trash bin with everything else it creates a major problem. These materials sit in landfills and are not adequately processed leading to issues of contamination along with creating an unsafe environment for those that are living in the area. Hazardous substances don’t break down like their non-hazardous counterparts and sometimes don’t break down at all. A more serious and researched approach to proper waste hauling needs to be taken in the future to ensure that something like this is not allowed to happen again.