- Texas-based Whole Foods Market Inc. has reached a $3.5 million settlement with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over violations of hazardous waste regulations, as reported by the Seattle Times.
- The grocer said that no spills, leaks or other hazards were found at its stores. Instead, the issue came down to "record keeping" around hazardous waste. The EPA said that Whole Foods also mishandled spent lamps.
- In addition to updating its operations, Whole Foods committed to create and fund a supplemental environmental project around hazardous waste education for Texas retailers. The project is valued around $500,000 and will help small businesses maintain compliance.
Acting on information from the New Mexico Environment Department, EPA conducted a year-long investigation and record review that found issues at facilities in Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and New Mexico. Proper hazardous waste determinations are required for all material from generation to treatment to storage under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.
Whole Foods said most of the items in question became waste once they had been opened and returned. The main products involved were nail polish remover, vitamins, liquor and cleaning supplies. While these items may seem innocuous, they can cause problems when not treated properly or stored together.
Disposal options might seem limited for these types of materials, but haulers and recyclers are able to handle just about anything customers generate when the proper systems are put in place. More waste companies are now coming forward to help pair retail customers with specialized processors and also provide education to employees for proper disposal practices on-site.