The Associated Press reported this week that the Walgreen’s drug store chain has agreed to pay $185,000 in Massachusetts to settle charges that it improperly handled hazardous wastes from its instore photo processing machines. The state’s Attorney General charged the company failed to cover and label waste containers, and kept incomplete disposal records over a two year period. Walgreen’s was forced to pay $100,000, and the balance of their payment will be waived if the company develops a plan to improve its management of the photo processing waste. The company has 91 stores in Massachusetts. A Walgreens spokesman told the AP that the company’s noncompliance did not actually cause any environmental contamination. ”There were no allegations of contamination of water, there was no allegation that the waste was a threat to anyone or any drinking water,” the spokesman said. Walgreens, which calls itself the “nation’s largest drugstore chain, had 3,880 stores as of the end of August, 2002. The company plans to have 7,000 stores by the year 2010. Walgreen’s opened 1.3 stores every day last year, and plans to open 450 new stores this year. The company also closed 108 stores last year, wbich means that every 3 days a Walgreen’s was closing somewhere in America. The company has about 141,000 employees, of which 34% (48,000) are part-timers. Walgreeen’s generally operates from leased buildings, owning only 19% of its stores. The corporation, based in Deerfield, Illinois, had net sales in 2002 of $28.6 billion, and net earnings of just over $1 billion. Walgreen’s is currently closing many of its “older” stores to relocate “in more convenient and profitable free-standing locations.”
Meanwhile, residents in Greenfield, Massachusetts and Ghent, Virginia are fighting Walgreen’s over the company’s poor choice of locations. In Norfolk, residents have gathered 3,000 signatures from citizens stating they do not want a Walgreens in Ghent which already has 6 other pharmacies. Walgreen’s plans to build a suburban store in an historic urban setting which will displace at least 8 existing businesses. In Greenfield, Walgreen’s wants to tear down three historic Victorian homes, while less than a mile away an empty CVS drugstore has been on the market for several years.