Walmart doesn’t just scrimp on employee wages. It also scrimps on employee training, and that led to its workers dumping returned pesticides, bleach, and other hazardous products into the trash or sewer systems.
On Tuesday, Walmart pled guilty to violations of federal environmental laws and agreed to pay $81.6 million in fines and penalties for improper hazardous waste disposal.
[U]ntil January 2006, Wal-Mart did not have a program in place and failed to train its employees on proper hazardous waste management and disposal practices at the store level. As a result, hazardous wastes were either discarded improperly at the store level — including being put into municipal trash bins or, if a liquid, poured into the local sewer system — or they were improperly transported without proper safety documentation to one of six product return centers located throughout the United States.
“By improperly handling hazardous waste, pesticides and other materials in violation of federal laws, Wal-Mart put the public and the environment at risk and gained an unfair economic advantage over other companies,” said Ignacia S. Moreno, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.
Some of the $81.6 million will be invested in community projects, such as a new $6 million center that will help retailers learn how to properly handle hazardous waste.
But fear not for the company’s solvency in the wake of its reckless handling of solvents. From The New York Times:
The guilty plea comes after settlements that Wal-Mart reached with California and Missouri in 2010 and 2012 on the same charges. Tuesday’s fines include $60 million for violations of the Clean Water Act in California; $14 million for a violation of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act in Missouri; and a $7.6 million civil penalty to the E.P.A.
In total, Wal-Mart will have paid more than $110 million to resolve all these related cases. Wal-Mart, which had $128 billion in revenues last year, said the payments should not have a material effect on its business.
See also: Walmart’s greenwash: Why the retail giant is still unsustainable