Retailers face serious challenges in complying with their obligations under Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (“RCRA”) and other federal environmental statutes in light of the wide variety of retail products covered by EPA’s waste disposal regulations. EPA recently expressed its intent to consider future rulemaking under RCRA governing retail products unsold, returned, or removed from shelves for inventory changes or recalls. According to the Unified Agenda, a Notice of Data Availability on the issue was planned for March 2013, though EPA has yet to put forth any information or guidance on the subject. EPA’s recent enforcement efforts and multi-million dollar settlement of RCRA and other claims against Wal-Mart underscore the agency’s escalating interest in retail waste and impacts that could reach beyond Wal-Mart to other retail vendors that handle similar waste streams.

Retailers attempting to comply with RCRA should have compliance programs sufficient to ensure they meet RCRA generator requirements and avoid the shipment of hazardous wastes from warehouses and reverse distribution centers. EPA’s consent decree also requires annual monitoring plans to identify new products that are hazardous wastes when disposed of, employee training requirements, development of an environmental management system, maintenance of a hazardous waste electronic database available to all workers to aid in the identification of hazardous wastes, and development of standard operating procedures relating to environmental compliance.Click here for further information on EPA’s RCRA activity.

Click here for further information on EPA’s RCRA activity.

For more information on the Wal-Mart settlement, visit EPA’s website.

This post was co-authored by Crowell & Moring attorneys Dawn Miller, Warren Lehrenbaum and Cheryl Falvey.