Apple reaches settlement with California agency over hazardous waste violations

Tech firm agrees to pay $450,000 to settle allegations it violated state laws at a shredding facility.

December 7, 2016

The state of California’s Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) has reached a settlement with Apple Inc. over violations of California’s Hazardous Waste Control Law the agency found during an inspection of the company’s electronic scrap shredding facility in Sunnyvale, California.

During the June 13, 2013, inspection,  DTSC found that Apple had opened, operated and subsequently closed an electronic scrap shredding facility from 2011 to 2012 in Cupertino, California, without the agency’s knowledge and without complying with universal waste regulations, including the mismanagement of metal dust from the shredder operations.

According to the DTSC, Apple processed about 1.1 million pounds of electronic scrap at the Cupertino facility before closing the plant at the beginning of 2013 and relocating the equipment and shifting the operations to Sunnyvale. At the new location, Apple dismantled, shredded and disposed of more than 800,000 pounds of electronic scrap before notifying the DTSC of the plant’s existence and complying with all universal waste regulations.

Universal wastes are subject to California universal waste regulations. Since they are considered a type of hazardous waste, universal waste handlers that accept universal waste must notify DTSC and handle the waste according to management standards required by law.

The shredding process produces a fine dust that is collected by a baghouse and filter system. The dust is classified as a hazardous waste due to the concentration of metals. The shredded devices are shipped offsite for recycling and sold as scrap metal. Apple, however, shipped hazardous dust and floor sweep from Sunnyvale to Sims Recycling Solutions, an electronics recycling facility located in Roseville, California, that was not authorized to handle Apple’s hazardous waste.

After the inspection, records review and dust sampling, DTSC alleged Apple committed the following violations:

  • transportation of hazardous waste without a proper manifest; 
  • failing to report and track exports of hazardous waste; 
  • failing to label or otherwise mark used oil containers as hazardous waste; 
  • failing to provide notice of closure for the facility in Cupertino; 
  • failing to submit a written closure plan and cost estimate for closing the facility in Cupertino and for eventual closure of its shredding facility in Sunnyvale; and
  • failing to demonstrate financial assurance to fund the eventual closure of the two facilities.

In a news release following the settlement, Keith Kihara, chief of the DTSC enforcement division, says, “Compliance with the hazardous waste law is fundamental in protecting the health of workers and communities as well as the environment. We are encouraged by the settlement and that Apple is working with us to take the necessary steps to comply with California’s hazardous waste law.”

As part of the settlement, Apple has agreed to maintain a closure plan and financial insurance for the facility, conduct weekly inspections of areas where hazardous waste is generated and stored and will ensure that electronic scrap, including shredded electronic scrap, is properly labeled and not put into containers with dust derived from its shredding operations.

To read the official complaint, click here.