EPA: Whole Foods must pay $3.5M over hazardous waste violations

In this March 27, 2014 photo, a woman shops at a Whole Foods Market. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
In this March 27, 2014 photo, a woman shops at a Whole Foods Market. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — A year-long Environmental Protection Agency investigation found Whole Foods improperly identified or handled hazardous waste at company facilities in Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico and Oklahoma, the federal agency announced Tuesday.

Whole Foods entered into a settlement with the EPA where the company will pay $3.5 million in penalties and promote hazardous waste compliance among retailers.

“All companies must follow the law and be responsible stewards of their hazardous waste, from generating it to safely disposing of it,” said Regional Administrator Ron Curry. “Whole Foods is correcting these violations and will ensure their stores and facilities continue to comply with environmental regulations. They will also look into launching an innovative hazardous waste tracking system that we hope becomes the industry standard.”

Part of the settlement requires the Austin-based grocery retailer to create a Supplemental Environmental Project which will educate Texas retailers about hazardous waste laws.

Whole Foods said the matter often involves products — such as nail polish remover, vitamins, liquor and cleaning items — that are purchased, opened, returned and then can no longer be sold and are declared waste. The company says it worked with the EPA and has updated operations and training, plus improved its systems to better track such waste.

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