It’s Friday, August 19, and a luxury hotel chain is paying up for mismanaging its hazardous waste.

Since at least 2018, the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company has allegedly been illegally dumping hazardous waste in California landfills. Now, a judge is ordering the company to pay up.

In a final decision signed last week by Riverside County Superior Court Judge Kira L. Klatchko, the Ritz-Carlton was ordered to pay $435,000 in civil penalties and cost reimbursements, split between the jurisdictions that brought the lawsuit. The court also ordered the company to contribute $100,000 toward environmental projects in California. The order is part of a settlement between the Ritz-Carlton and district attorneys from six California counties plus the city attorney of Los Angeles city attorney, who sued the hotel company for unlawfully disposing of batteries, electronics, cleaning products, and other toxic and flammable materials.

Grist relies on the support of generous readers like you. Donate today to keep our climate news free. All donations matched!

Rather than sorting and disposing of these materials at designated hazardous waste facilities, the defense attorneys alleged that the Ritz-Carlton sent them to local landfills. Rich Hall, a spokesperson for the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office, told the Desert Sun the violations were discovered through waste audits — “by going through a compactor and/or dumpster and looking for illegal items.”

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.

Dumping hazardous waste in regular landfills can cause contamination of soil and groundwater, potentially damaging the environment and jeopardizing public health. Heavy metals associated with landfilled electronics, for example, are linked to birth defects, neurological problems, respiratory diseases, and other health problems for nearby communities.

Although a press release from the Riverside County District attorney’s office says the Ritz-Carlton has now implemented “improved policies and procedures” to deal with hazardous waste, others highlighted reputational damage that could be difficult to overcome. Malissa McKeith, an environmental law expert and president of the Riverside-based nonprofit Citizens United for Resources and the Environment, called the news “a black eye” to the Ritz-Carlton’s exclusive brand.

“They charge upwards of $1,000 a night but couldn’t separate hazardous waste,” she told me.

In the news

Yangtze tributary runs dry as China faces another month of drought
Thomas Suen and David Stanway, Reuters
Read more

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.

‘We’ve been sold out’: Enviro justice advocates slam Biden’s climate compromise
Zack Colman, Politico
Read more

All of Massachusetts now in drought amid alarming expansion of dry conditions in Northeast
Brandon Miller, Judson Jones, and Rachel Ramirez, CNN
Read more

Forest fires are getting worse, 20 years of data confirm
Liz Kimbrough, Mongabay
Read more

The petrochemical industry is convincing states to deregulate plastic incineration
Joseph Winters, Grist
Read more