California’s environmental prosecutors have scrutinized hazardous waste management for several years now, particularly at major retailers. This focus has led to California settlements with Costco, CVS, Home Depot, Lowe’s, Wal-Mart, and Walgreens, among other retailers. The settlements resolved alleged mismanagement of hazardous waste generated from material such as consumer products, pharmaceuticals, and general home improvement products.
In a settlement agreement filed on December 16, 2015 in the Alameda County Superior Court (here), Comcast Cable agreed to pay the State of California more than $25 million to resolve allegations related to improper handling and disposal of hazardous waste. In this instance, most of the waste at issue was hazardous electronic waste (“e-waste”), including, for example, remote controls, modems, and amplifiers. The investigation also revealed that Comcast discarded documents without shredding them first, which included customer information, such as names, addresses, and phone numbers.
The recent Comcast Cable settlement highlights what we understand to be a new prosecutorial focus. Through discussions with industry leaders, we understand prosecutors have honed in on management of hazardous e-waste, including, for example, whether e-waste is being properly stored, managed, and ultimately disposed.
In general, e-waste refers to various electronic products that are nearing the end of their useful life. Such products include televisions, fax machines, and computers, among others. Some e-waste is considered hazardous waste because of certain components, including, for example, nonfunctioning cathode ray tubes (CRTs) from televisions and monitors. California has adopted regulations (Chapter 23 of Title 22 of the California Code of Regulations) that designate hazardous electronic devices as universal wastes, which allow handling and transporting under more relaxed rules than the full hazardous waste regulations.
Retailers and other corporations handling electronics should carefully assess whether their materials may trigger specific requirements. For questions or for more information on management of hazardous waste, including e-waste management, contact Greg Blount, Angela Levin or Karlie Webb.