Thursday, May 6, 2010

Letter to WalMart from Local Government: "Stuck With Your Products"

Guest Column

Letter to Kenneth Woodlin, Walmart

From: Rob Darcy
Santa Clara County(CA) Hazardous Program Manager

May 06, 2010
RE: Voluntary Fluorescent Lamp and/or Battery Recycling Partner


With all due respect, I am very disappointed with your decision to refuse to participate in Santa Clara County's Retail Take-it back Network. Simply put, we need your help serving the public We have 66 voluntary locations accepting batteries and 35 accepting fluorescent lamps. Your competitors recognize the need to do their part to help consumers dispose of the very same products you sell and profit from at your stores. If you recall, we sat on the Lighting Task Force together to try and solve the problem facing local governments and our environment and were unable to agree on who should fund sustainable collection programs for end of life hazardous products. So for now, local governments/taxpayers are stuck.

I always find it surprising that businesses scream about regulations and how they should be allowed to thrive in a free market unfettered by laws and regulations. After all, the free market will fix all our problems and self-correct when needed. These same businesses are vigorously opposing current producer responsibility/product stewardship bills in the legislature today. They want free markets but are quite content to enjoy the waste subsidy that local governments provide when cleaning up after the hazardous products that are spewed into commerce. Local government should not be in the business of end of life management and instead it should be a function of the marketplace allowing business innovation to thrive and compete.

Wal-Mart has a market and moral responsibility to be part of the solution and participate in Santa Clara County's Retail Take-it-back Network. All your stores are already managing these very same waste streams as we speak. Your stores generate these wastes in the course of your every day business operations. Some of your stores, in fact, have serious problems with managing hazardous waste you generate throughout the state. Why not embrace the need to do it right, train your employees to be compliant and open it up to the public. This would be an impressive step toward sustainability and a PR success story.

I ask you to reconsider. After all, you are already managing these products in the every day course of your business. I would also like to point out that you are currently accepting batteries, fluorescent lamps or sharps at your stores in Paso Robles, Arroyo Grande and Roseville.

As you know, I am a proponent of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) and I'm surprised that a company like Wal-Mart who claims to be progressing toward a sustainable business model isn't leading by example and assisting its customers with full life cycle product assistance. A battery or fluorescent lamp is in the same condition whether sitting on your shelves as a product for sale or sitting in the warehouse awaiting recycling. The only difference is utility.

The state of Maine recently passed an EPR Framework bill where the Chamber of Commerce supported the effort. Most businesses are lining up in support of EPR because they recognize that local governments cannot sustain an end of pipe approach to toxic product management. Most organizations understand that EPR shrinks the size of government and reduces taxes and rates. And let's not forget, that it expands those free markets.

I eagerly look forward to your response.

Rob D'Arcy

Hazardous Materials Program Manager
Hazardous Waste Recycling and Disposal Program
Department of Environmental Health
County of Santa Clara
1555 Berger Dr Suite 300
San Jose, CA 95112

A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has. Margaret Mead

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