June 15, 2009

Minneapolis, Minnesota based Target Corporation found out the hard way that disposal of damaged or returned products can be more complicated – and maybe more costly – than one would expect.

California authorities, including the Attorney General and district attorneys from around the State, accused Target of allegedly violating hazardous waste disposal laws several hundred times by dumping products that were returned or damaged during shipping or stocking on shelves.  The California authorities allege that the products were discarded with other trash and garbage or otherwise disposed of improperly.

The California authorities allege that the damaged or returned products, including fluorescent tubes, paints, pesticides, bleach and other products, should have been managed as hazardous wastes and sent to specially permitted facilities.  California seeks thousands in penalties.

According to an article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Target defended its practices and expressed disappointment that the action had been filed.  Target indicated that it had been in negotiations with the California authorities.  The article can be found at:http://www.startribune.com/business/48115712.html?elr=KArksUUUU

Waste handling and proper disposal of waste is subject to strict regulation.  Although individual homeowners may legally be able to dispose of household chemicals purchased at retail outlets with their trash, different rules apply to businesses who are disposing of the same materials. 

Businesses need to follow federal, state and local requirements relating to waste handling and disposal.  Disposal rules vary from state to state and even within some states.  Wastes that are sent to the wrong disposal facility can be deemed to be improperly disposed.  Illegal disposal may cause problems.  If disposal facilities that receive wastes are not equipped or permitted to handle those wastes, waste components, residue or breakdown products can be released to the air, land or water and may result in contamination of the environment. 

Governmental authorities may seek administrative or civil penalties, order corrective actions and, in serious cases, even seek criminal sanctions – fines and jail time – for such unpermitted disposal. 

At Hessian & McKasy, our Environmental Law Attorney Practice Group advises clients as to regulatory requirements that may apply to their operations.  Our environmental attorneys have developed environmental management programs to help clients maintain compliance.  For more information about the professional services provided by Hessian & McKasy’s Environmental Law Attorney Practice Group, please see: http://www.enviroattorney.net/professionalservices.php.

The views expressed here are my own and do not reflect the views of my employer, Hessian & McKasy. P.A.

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