Southern California environment news and trends

Costco settles environmental lawsuit with $3.6 million payout

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Chris Hondros/Getty Images

Shoppers stand near a filled cart in a Costco warehouse store.

As reported by the San Francisco Chronicle, retail giant Costco has agreed to pay out $3.6 million across more than two dozen California counties for alleged violations when storing, handling and disposing of hazardous materials, including pharmaceutical waste.

Occurring over a five-year period from 2007 through 2011, the allegations include Costco employees not labeling or sorting hazardous products including pool chlorine, nicotine patches and bleach. Items were thrown in the thrash or left on store shelves indefinitely, as opposed to following state laws that require such materials be properly disposed of within 90 days.

"Businesses both large and small must comply with California's environmental regulations," said Donald du Bain, the Solano County District Attorney, one of the 29 represented in the lawsuit to the Reporter. "Because of the multi-jurisdictional efforts of district attorneys' offices throughout the state in conjunction with Costco's cooperation, we are reducing the risk of harm to the environment caused by the improper storage and disposal of hazardous waste."

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Why California recycles so few batteries

Molly Peterson/KPCC

Call2Recycle is a nonprofit company backed by the rechargeable battery industry that places boxes in stores to collect batteries, then picks up the cost of shipping the boxes to a recycling facility.

So, maybe it's not a shocker that stores don't want to pay to recycle batteries. People who buy batteries don't expect to pay again to recycle batteries either. But here's the trick: trashing batteries is illegal. California's Universal Waste Rule bans AAA, AA, C, D, button cell, 9-volts; rechargeables and alkalines, both. They contain copper, cadmium and lead.

It's not always easy to find places authorized to handle hazardous waste--the places batteries are supposed to go.  

The Department of Toxic Substances Control has a list of places statewide. But when I plugged in my zip code, it came up with only one place, and it only accepts CRTs (computer monitors). CalRecycle's upcoming collection events page stopped being updated five years ago. The City of LA's Department of Public Works offers permanent drop off sites in Glendale, San Pedro, Playa, Sun Valley, UCLA, and Washington at Santa Fe, south of downtown. The county offers one-day special collections. You can't say they're not trying. But I've never successfully made it to the one on Colorado near Glendale, my closest LA city site. 

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