California Fines CVS $3.6M for Failing to Recycle

CVS, the nations largest pharmacy health care provide,  was hit with a $3.6 million fine for failing to recycle and failing to “redeem deposits on bottles and cans at some of its locations, regulators said Monday.”

The California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery, better known as CalRecycle,  is charging the pharmacy company with an enforcement action for failing to meet requirements to accept Californians’ deposits on recycled bottles and cans, the release said. The enforcement action was filed last week.”

CalRecycle, said its investigation found that 81 of CVS Pharmacy’s 848 retail stores in California refused to redeem the recyclables, pay a required $100 daily fee as an alternative and did not submit an affidavit explaining how they would follow redemption standards.

CVS can seek a hearing if it wants to contest the fine. Department spokesman Lance Klug said it’s the largest enforcement action ever against a retailer for failing to redeem recyclables.

The company “is committed to contributing to healthier, more sustainable communities and we are currently reviewing the state of California’s filing,” spokesman Mike DeAngelis said in an email.

CalRecycle has increased enforcement against California retailers that are obligated to redeem the recycling deposit (CRV) for beverage containers in store, resulting in an additional 2,180 inspections and prioritized enforcement on retailers with the largest number of violations and penalties owed, according to their statement.

The vast majority of nearly 4,000 beverage retailers have agreed to redeem bottles and cans if consumers can’t find another convenient recycler. But Consumer Watchdog estimated from limited data that half to two-thirds of those retailers may be refusing to do so.

“They’ve fined before, but they haven’t done it regularly or a lot,” Consumer Watchdog advocate Liza Tucker said of state regulators. “They’re sending a signal that it isn’t business as unusual, we’re really going to apply fines that are bigger than in the past.”

Even for the pharmacy giant, $3.6 million “is enough to get CVS’ attention and enough to get the attention of the entire retail community,” Tucker said. “This is the wake-up call.”

CVS will owe $1.8 million for $100 per day fees as of Oct. 31 and another $1.8 million for civil penalties. The department will also request reimbursement for investigation costs. The total fine is a state record against retailers that are supposed to redeem cans and bottles.

Jared Blumenfeld, California’s secretary for Environmental Protection, said in a statement that the goal is to send a message that the state “will hold retailers accountable for refunding consumers their nickel and dime recycling deposits.”

Consumers in California pay an extra 5 cents for bottles up to 24 ounces (709.76 milliliters) and 10 cents for bottles more than 24 ounces. They’re supposed to get that money back but Consumer Watchdog said people just throw them away because they can’t find a convenient recycling location.

About Catherine Smith

Catherine Smith is a newcomer to Washington D.C. She met, and married an American journalist and moved to D.C from the U.K. She graduated with a B.A in Graphic, Media and Communications and worked in design and retail in the U.K.

Photo: Getty Images

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