Photo Credits: ALEXA FONTANILLA / AGGIE
District attorneys found Target violated state environmental laws, injunctive terms
Yolo County District Attorney Jeff Reisig and 23 prosecutorial offices announced on Dec. 5 a $7.4 million settlement with Target after investigating the corporation for continued environmental violations. The coalition, which consisted primarily of district attorney offices and included California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, alleged Target improperly disposed of hazardous waste into landfills.
According to a press release, “improper waste included items such as electronics, batteries, aerosol cans, compact fluorescent light bulbs, and medical waste such as over-the- counter and prescribed pharmaceuticals, as well as confidential medical information from its customers.”
This settlement is the latest development in a series of issues involving investigations of Target’s waste practices.
In 2011, Target agreed to pay $22.5 million and to comply with injunctive terms including audits and stricter waste disposal policies to resolve compliance allegations. Throughout 2012 and 2014, however, Target was inspected and found to have evidence of continued problems; this included the unlawful disposal of 2,038 items of hazardous waste. These findings led to revision and the new resolution approved by the Alameda Superior Court this December.
David J. Irey, Yolo County’s assistant chief deputy district attorney, was involved in the recent investigation.
“We saw some problems, and then we expanded the investigation to see if they happened statewide, and we found that they did,” Irey said. “Then we did some compactor audits, which is an investigation into what they actually were throwing away, and we filed a lawsuit and litigated for a little while — we resolved it.”
Target’s written statement claims that store practices have changed due to these events.
“We’ve made significant progress in the way we handle hazardous waste following our 2011 settlement with the state of California,” the statement read. “We have enhanced team member training, store operations and auditing processes and we continue work to improve our operations.”
The statement went on to promise future improvements.
“Target also will remind team members on best practices for handling environmentally sensitive items, commit to regular third-party audits and upgrade to clear trash bags in our stores for easier visual inspections.”
According to Kelly Brandt, a Target employee and first-year managerial economics major at UC Davis, one challenge Target has faced has been effectively implementing existing Target policies.
“Generally, the resources are there to dispose of the materials properly,” Brandt said. “I think it’s just the capacity and given [that] both of the stores that I worked at were understaffed, trash naturally takes a back burner, as our priorities are customers.”
Brandt continued, addressing weaknesses.
“I could see where [procedures] could fail, given time constraints,” Brandt said. “I don’t think it’s anyone intentionally trying to put trash in the wrong spot. It’s just because of time and procedures are there but are not something that, in the grand scheme of things, are super heavily enforced.”
So far, Brandt has not seen any immediate changes in employee training or store procedures, and has not heard about the settlement from work.
As for the district attorney offices, Irey stated that the Yolo County District Attorney’s Office is pleased with Target’s response to the settlement.
“Target was easy to work with this time, [and] did the right thing,” Irey said. “Target modified their program and we’re happy with the resolution.”
In addition to paying $7.4 million for items such as civil penalties, supplemental environmental projects and education classes and programs, Target will also provide reports and implement a customer trash receptacle inspection and management program to prevent future improper waste disposal.
Written by: Anne Fey — firstname.lastname@example.org