Three must-haves for managing these common hazardous-materials returns


Retailers had their hands full this last holiday season. A solid start to shopping was welcome news, but better-than-anticipated sales were just part of the story. As was expected, e-commerce drove the gains, and that means this year’s seasonal returns volume will be especially heavy.

Retailers are enjoying the benefits of improved omnichannel fulfillment, and the effort they’ve given to activating shoppers across channels has been time well spent. However, with the impending increase in returns, it’s essential that they pay equal attention to returns management, especially for products containing hazardous materials and waste.

With COVID-19 having already complicated the holiday shopping season, retailers need to be proactive in preparing for fully compliant disposition of hazardous-product returns. If not, they risk taking a serious hit to hard-won profits.

Anyone who thinks that states are too busy contending with the coronavirus to enforce compliance should think again. Even in the midst of the pandemic, environmental regulators and local governments are aggressively prosecuting retailers for improper handling, transportation and disposal of hazardous waste. And the ongoing civil enforcement is costing merchants millions of dollars in settlements and fines.

Perhaps not surprisingly, it’s California that’s been ringing up the settlement register as of late, collecting more than $6.25 million in fees and fines from three leading retailers since September. In December, Ross Stores, Inc. was ordered by the Monterey County Superior Court to pay $3.335 million as part of a settlement of a civil environmental prosecution.

According to the Alameda County District Attorney, more than 441 Ross and dd’s Discount Stores throughout the state unlawfully handled and disposed of various hazardous wastes and materials, including electronic waste, cosmetics, batteries, mercury lamps, personal care products, aerosol spray cans and other toxic and ignitable materials.

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Supply Chain Brain, 21 January 2021