Fixing The Trolley Problem
Updated: Mar 7
Everyone knows it. Romford has a problem with trollies. They roam freely around our town, often congregating down alleys and in car parks. Loitering in our way and looking unsightly. They become full of rubbish and occasionally can be seen wheels in the air as if sunbathing.
Every political candidate complains about it and gleefully tells the public about how may we have spotted and reported. Using the app ‘Trolleywise’ I can see that I’ve reported 65 wild and free trollies in just the last few months. Perhaps we should make a league table of political candidates and trolley reporting.
Despite all this reporting, which leads to Trolleywise collecting them, the problem hasn’t gone away. Trolleywise doesn’t collect every trolley as they don’t have contracts with everyone. Sometimes they just don’t want to go get a specific one. This leaves the return of trollies to the good folk of Romford who voluntarily drive around collecting them.
But I have another plan.
In 2011 thieves stole 800 shopping trollies from Basildon Asda, leaving the store having to spend £64,000 to replace them. It was thought that they were being sold for scrap somewhere.
A local taxi driver found the issue quite funny telling the Daily Mail that “…we usually get fed up of Asda for not clearing away large numbers of trollies left in our taxi rank…” He continued, “they’ve been clearing them away a lot quicker since so many were stolen”.
Hold that thought. Quick maths time.
£64,000 for 800 trollies = £80 a trolley. In 2011.
Trolleywise is a non-profit. They plant a tree for every trolley they collect They are owned by Wanzl, a company who outfit shops and, you guessed it, sell trollies.
So here is a manufacturer taking responsibility for someone dumping their product. That’s to be applauded.
But the fact they are non-profit limits them. It means they won’t go everywhere and they won’t collect everything. Any solution we have needs to be one that will pick up any trolley anywhere. There needs to be an incentive to do that.
Their work also means that the supermarkets get their trollies rounded up and returned at no cost / minimal cost to themselves. So they have no incentive to fit anti-theft devices or to go collect them.
Hire someone to steal Asda's trollies...
OK don't do that, but here's what to do.
Trollies clearly have some scrap value, though I don’t know what that is. They are also expensive for the supermarkets who stock them. By reporting 60 trollies, that were returned to the supermarkets, I have saved them close to £5k. I reckon they owe me a free tank of fuel for that.
And we’re all saving these supermarkets money. They don’t need to hire anyone to collect the trollies and they don’t need to replace them if they go for walkies.
Every solution I’ve seen offered, so far, can be summed up as “make the supermarket collect them”. But the Council can’t force Tesco or Asda or anyone to specifically hire for that. What they can do, however, is make life expensive for the stores.
I believe the council should sign a contract with our local scrap dealers, the rag and bone men that drive Romford’s streets. Instead of hiring someone themselves or simply issuing fines. We need someone motivated to collect them, with an incentive to do so. This person roams Romford looking for the dumped trollies and picks them up.
Rag and Bone man collects a trolley, they can scrap it and keep what they get. If they want to sell them back to the supermarkets, they’re welcome to.
No more returning them to save the supermarkets money. Let’s hit the pockets of Asda and see if they suddenly decide it’s worth collecting their trollies faster.
If I’ve saved the big stores £5k this year, it’s likely that others have to. Us political candidates have made life easy for them, instead of making them realise they need to up their game.
If Asda suddenly had to pay a scrap dealer £40 to get their trolley back or £80 for a new one, then they’d start looking after our town.