Stores Get Big Fines for Violating Battery Recycling Law

Over 10 million single-use (“primary”) batteries are sold to Vermonters each year. This statistic seems harmless enough–yes, batteries contain alkaline, carbon-zinc and lithium metals, all of which can be harmful to humans and the environment if disposal goes wrong–but Vermont has made battery recycling mandatory and easy for businesses and individuals.

Today, the Agency of Natural Resources announced that Walgreen Eastern Co. Inc., the owner of three Vermont Walgreens stores, was fined $20,000 for producing and selling batteries in Vermont without an Agency-approved battery stewardship plan–a state law that requires all battery manufacturers to identify how they will contribute to the free collection and recycling of batteries sold in Vermont. The provisions must be outlined in a stewardship plan approved by the Agency of Natural Resources.

“Strong product stewardship policies push manufacturers to take responsibility for the costs and infrastructure of recycling their product,” states Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Emily Boedecker. “Too often these costs fall on the public, in the form of costly landfills, municipal waste collection services, and even polluted water.”

In the summer of 2016, Agency personnel observed Walgreens selling Walgreens Alkaline Supercell (Walgreens brand) primary batteries at the company’s Burlington and Rutland stores. Walgreens had not registered under an Agency-approved primary battery stewardship plan.

The Agency issued a Notice of Alleged Violation, directing the company to stop offering their Walgreen brand primary batteries for sale without a stewardship plan. Despite several violation notices and stop sale notices to the stores, Walgreens did not comply. The Agency then issued an Administrative Order seeking to suspend the sale of Walgreens Brand primary batteries and to assess a penalty.

“Vermont is holding Walgreens accountable for joining other battery manufacturers in sharing environmental responsibility for their product,” Boedecker said.

In a Final Order, issued by the Vermont Superior Court, Walgreens Eastern Co., Inc. agreed to pay a $20,000 penalty and to discontinue the sale of Walgreens Brand primary batteries in Vermont unless a battery stewardship plan is submitted to and approved by the State.