A “greener world” isn’t always a happier world. Walmart (WMT) will pay $1 million to settle a lawsuit brought by 23 California district attorneys alleging it illegally sold plastic products in stores and online that were misleadingly labeled “biodegradable” or “compostable,” prosecutors involved with the case said on February 1, 2017.
The selling of items with disingenuous labeling is in violation of California law. The action was filed in Napa County by Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley and 22 of her counterparts throughout the state. The retail giant agreed to pay $875,000 in civil penalties and an additional $50,000 to the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery to fund testing of plastic products. Jet.com, a subsidiary of Walmart, will pay an additional $15,000 in civil penalties.
The judgment prohibits Walmart from selling plastic products labeled biodegradable or compostable unless such claims are backed by scientific certification.
“Unfortunately, Californians concerned with reducing plastic waste in landfills are commonly misled to purchase plastic bags and other plastic products based on marketers’ unsubstantiated claims of biodegradability, but almost nothing breaks down in a landfill,” O’Malley said in a statement. “That’s why the sale of plastic products labeled ‘biodegradable’ is illegal in California and why (Wednesday’s) settlement is a win for both consumers and the environment.”
Walmart and Jet.com refused to admit liability in the lawsuit.
“We are pleased to resolve this matter with the California District Attorneys and are appreciative of them as they have worked with us on this issue. Sustainability is a priority for us, and we have been recognized as a retail leader in this space,” Walmart officials said in a statement. “We’re proud of the enhancements we have made to help ensure that the products we sell to California customers are in line with the State’s guidance on biodegradable labeling.”