Target reaches $7.4 million settlement over waste disposal

The settlement alleges Target handled and disposed hazardous and medical waste improperly.

The Minneapolis-based Target Corporation has reached a $7.4 million settlement with the California attorney general, along with 24 local government attorneys, for its alleged improper handling and disposal of retail hazardous waste.

Attorney General Xavier Becerra says in a statement that the settlement resolves allegations that Target violated state laws and injunctive terms from a 2011 stipulated judgment over the company’s hazardous waste disposal. The current settlement follows investigations into Target alleging that between 2012 to 2016, the company committed violations by improperly disposing hazardous waste into landfills. The waste included items such as electronics, batteries, aerosol cans, compact fluorescent light bulbs and medical waste, including syringes, over-the-counter and prescribed pharmaceuticals, as well as confidential medical information from its customers. 

“Target’s ongoing and improper disposal of hazardous waste and contaminants harmed the public and the environment,” Becerra says. “We are confident that with these strong injunctive terms and penalties, Target will implement meaningful changes to prevent this from ever happening again. However, the wise move for all companies is to abide by the law and employ proactive training and processes to help ensure that hazardous waste violations are avoided in the first place.” 

This is the second settlement resolving allegations of Target’s hazardous waste compliance violations, the attorney general says. In March 2009, the California Department of Justice and several local prosecutors filed a complaint against Target alleging that it violated state statutes and regulations governing the  handling and disposal of hazardous waste. As part of the final settlement in 2011, Target agreed to pay $22.5 million for penalties, attorneys’ fees and funding for supplemental environmental projects, and to comply with injunctive terms. These included annual compliance audits by an independent contractor and terms forbidding Target from disposing or causing the disposal of hazardous waste from its facilities to any unauthorized location, landfill or transfer station. 

Throughout 2012 and 2014, representatives of district attorney’s offices, along with local regulatory agencies, inspected Target’s trash compactors and found many instances of additional violations. The prosecutors alleged that during that time, Target unlawfully disposed of a total of 2,038 items of hazardous waste, 175 items of confidential medical information of customers and 94 items of medical waste. After Target was notified of the violations, they reached an agreement to revise the judgement entered as part of the 2011 settlement to resolve the violations detected by the prosecutors’ post-judgement investigation. 

The revised final judgement terms approved by the Alameda County Superior Court include:

  • $3.2 million in civil penalties;
  • $300,00 for funding of supplemental environmental projects undertaken by entities other than Target, including $50,000 to conduct education classes and programs for owners and operators of small businesses located in low-income and minority areas in California;
  • Additional requirements that Target expend at least $3 million to conduct three annual inspections and audits of 12 facilities, provide reports to the attorney general and local prosecutors, and create and implement a customer trash receptacle inspection and management program; and 
  • $900,000 for attorneys’ fees and costs of investigation and enforcement.

Joining Attorney Becerra in filing the settlement are Alameda, Butte, Contra Costa, Fresno, Humboldt, Kings, Los Angeles, Merced, Monterey, Orange, Riverside, Sacramento, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Joaquin, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Solano, Stanislaus, Tulare, Ventura, and Yolo counties, along with the cities of Los Angeles and San Diego.