The US state of California announced Monday it is suing Walmart, alleging the retail giant unlawfully disposes of millions of toxic waste items.
The state said it had conducted 58 inspections of trash compactors at Walmart stores between 2015 and 2021 and found items that require special handling when they are thrown out, such as batteries, insect killers, cleaning supplies, electronic waste and confidential customer information.
"When one person throws out a battery or half-empty hairspray bottle, we may think that it's no big deal," California Attorney General Rob Bonta said in a statement.
"But when we're talking about tens of thousands of batteries, cleaning supplies, and other hazardous waste, the impact to our environment and our communities can be huge."
Based on Walmarts records, the state said the store illegally disposes of 159,600 pounds of toxic waste each year amounting to a million items.
The most-populous US state had in 2010 reached a $25 million settlement with Walmart over similar hazardous waste disposal violations, but the attorney general's office said the issues continued.
In a statement, Walmart disputed the charges, saying that since 2010, regulators carried out 3,800 inspections of their stores and "have not imposed any fines on Walmart for violations of California's Hazardous Waste Control Law, demonstrating the effectiveness of our hazardous waste programs."
The company added that auditors have found that the trash in their compactors contains only 0.4 percent of the items regulators monitor, below the three percent statewide average.
"Walmart is a responsible corporate citizen in California and everywhere we operate," the company said.