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Whole Foods Market Inc. has reached a $3.5 million settlement with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which found that the Austin, Texas-based grocer improperly identified or mishandled hazardous waste at stores in Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico and Oklahoma.
In a statement, Whole Foods said EPA alleged not any specific environmental impact, but record-keeping and cataloging issues regarding the hazardous waste. The waste in question consisted of products classified as hazardous waste when they can no longer be used for their intended purpose, including items such as nail polish remover, certain products containing alcohol (e.g., hand sanitizer), liquor and certain vitamins. The products become hazardous waste typically when opened and returned by a customer, no longer allowing them to return to store shelves.
Measures put in place to improve compliance efforts include updated environmental compliance standards and operating procedures for stores and facilities; enhanced training programs for team members; investments in enhanced information technology systems to identify products that become hazardous waste in real time; and retention of additional internal and external environmental compliance experts for program and compliance.
Additionally, Whole Foods has committed to developing and funding a program in partnership with EPA to train and share best practices with businesses in Texas to support efforts to improve environmental compliance across industries.