Greenwire interviewed Manatt's Ted Wolff, a partner in the firm's Energy, Environment & Natural Resources practice, for an article on large retailers' efforts to comply with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's standards for hazardous waste disposal.
Greenwire reports that many of the nation's largest retailers are asking for clarification on how they may legally process unsold or expired items that contain toxic substances. They contend some provision of the Resources Conservation and Recovery Act of 1976, or RCRA, are more suited for industrial sites, but retailers may face large financial penalties if they are sued for disposal violations.
"The largest challenge that we see for all the retailers is first getting their arms around the fact that somebody who might have a 5,000-store chain across the country is regulated as a hazardous waste generator just as a steel smelter would be," said Wolff, who advises major retailers on environmental compliance.
Many retailers want to dispose of unsold products rather than return them to distributors but have had to create elaborate corporate oversight structures to ensure compliance with hazardous waste regulations, Wolff said. He said it's not always clear if third-party disposal facilities may decide whether an item is hazardous waste or if that determination must be made before a product is returned from a retail store location.