Whinfield Residents Association

(Incorporating the Friends of Beech Wood)

Abandoned ASDA Trolleys

The abandonment and dumping of trolleys from our local Asda store has been an ongoing problem for our ward for many years and has been raised by residents on numerous occasions at our meetings.

In late 2015, early 2016 Whinbush Residents Association incorporating Friends of Beech Wood contacted the Asda store in Whinfield about the issue once again. As a result of this meeting it was decided a poster campaign would be run. Asda and the residents association thought it was a good idea to ask the pupils from Whinbush Primary School if they would like to get involved and a competition for pupils at the school to design a poster warning people against the removal of shopping trolleys was organised with the winning design being displayed at our local store. The Northern Echo covered the story at the time and we were led to believe that if the posters made an impact here at the Whinfield store there was a possibility that similar posters could be displayed in other Asda stores both locally and nationally.

Unfortunately, due to the appointment of a new store manager at the Whinfield store, the pupils winning posters were only displayed on notice boards in the store. This, we were told, was because of company policy. The residents association were deeply disappointed and frustrated with this change of direction from Asda and felt that management were only half-hearted in their approach to both this campaign and the ongoing trolley problem.

As it stands there is not a single sign or poster anywhere in the store, the trolley parks or indeed anywhere on the Asda site, to remind and advise customers that they should not remove trolleys from the premises. We feel this gives a clear indication to our residents that management are neither behind or committed to addressing this problem. A preventative measure such as clear signage would be at least a starting point that Asda could implement quite easily and we feel not an unreasonable action to take. It would also show that the retailer is committed in managing and addressing the problem at source more effectively and visibly.

Although the nationwide ‘Trolleywise’ Scheme (www.trolleywiseapp.co.uk) backed by Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Asda was in existence and has been since 2012, the scheme didn’t really address the problem. A resident is able to report an abandoned trolley to Trolleywise via telephone, internet or an App and with geo-technology the company is able to send a dedicated van to retrieve the trolley. A charge would then be made to the local store, which we understand is between £25-£50.

Since the concept of the Trolleywise retrieval programme, millions of trolleys have been retrieved and when you consider over half a million trolleys going missing altogether, every year, this is a massive problem, both financially and environmentally. We also found that the very existence of the scheme made it even more convenient for some of our residents to remove trolleys, take them home carrying their shopping before dumping the trolley, knowing full well that at some point it will be collected and returned to the store by this organisation. So, although the idea behind the scheme is without doubt a good one, it in itself is hardly a deterrent and does not address the root cause of the problem.

Despite interventions from our councillors, and in recent times our local MP Jenny Chapman, a satisfactory solution to the problem had not been found. The final straw for us, and for and another local resident who had also been instrumental in pushing for a resolution, came when a visit to a local social housing estate in Whinfield had 27 abandoned Asda trolleys in the area alone. Most of the trolleys were left abandoned, but some were parked up in the front of residents’ homes. We must stress that this problem does not solely exist in this area, it happens right across the ward.

Unfortunately this is not an isolated incident and happens persistently week in week out. We are led to believe that some councils, Ashford being one, are exploring new powers Under the Anti Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act which would pressure store Managers to find ways to keep trolleys on site and stop customers walking home with them. There has even been a suggestion that an offending store could be issued a community protection notice warning. Initially the store would receive a warning followed by an enforcement action. Wrexham council at one point were even charging supermarkets £60 for each abandoned trolley they recovered and in Droitwich its £100.

We as an association were not for one minute suggesting that immediate course of action here, but if Asda failed to take on board this issue and continue to be seen as not being more decisive and proactive in tackling this matter then the issue of disbanded trolleys needed to be reviewed again. Lets face it if one was to take a Mars bar from a supermarket without paying for it the individual would be dealt with quite severely, but taking a £130-150 trolley, removing it from the premises and then discarding it or dumping in our community and natural environment can be done without any recompense or fear of punishment, so surely enough is enough and this problem needed to be addressed.

It was also brought to our attention that large volumes of trolleys were being dumped in the water course way between the golf club and housing estates in Whinfield. Although these trolleys were being collected once reported to Trolleywise, because they had been in contact with water each trolley were immediately deemed as being contaminated and therefore would have to be destroyed at a huge cost once again and particularly detrimental to our environment.

Asda trolleys dumped in a water course in Whinfield. Each one of these will be deemed
contaminated and will have to be destroyed once they are retrieved

The technology was out there to tackle this issue and has been used successfully in other areas of the UK. The reason why it had not been implemented here was purely a financial one. With the work of a local resident along with the association’s involvement, pressure continued with a suggestion that ‘Gateway’ technology should be implemented here at the Whinfield Store. Eventually the store manager conceded and agreed that the matter could not go on and an application was made for funding to implement this technology.

We are pleased to report funding of just under £20,000 was secured to implement ‘Gatekeeper’ technology to our Asda store in Whinfield in late 2017-18. Nearly 99% of the trolleys have now been converted and the underground cables installed around the perimeter of the supermarket site. How the system works is a simple one, once a shopping trolley crosses the underground cable a signal is sent which locks the wheels which prevents the trolley from being moved. This brake moving system can only be unlocked then by supermarket staff. What we have seen since the implementation of the system in our ward, is a monumental reduction in abandoned trolleys and therefore has been a massive success. We would like to thank not only the support from all our members of the association throughout this campaign but also the work of one particular resident in particular who had worked tirelessly on this issue as well. We would also like to thank the manager of Asda and management for finally making the funds available to what we felt was a very important matter for this ward. This will ultimately save money for the company in the long run, but more importantly for the residents and visitors of Whinfield, it has finally tackled the once huge issue of abandoned trolleys in public spaces and the blight it had on our environment.

An Asda trolley fitted with the new ‘Gatekeeper’ technology