Can the problem of abandoned supermarket trolleys ever be solved in Singapore?
14 Feb 2021 06:00AM (Updated: 14 Feb 2021 06:32AM)
SINGAPORE: Abandoned shopping trolleys are a problem that never seems to go away.
Supermarkets – both in Singapore and overseas – are constantly grappling with the issue, as they try to minimise the cost from lost trolleys or the extra time spent having to retrieve them.
Last month, CNA reported that supermarket trolleys are abandoned daily along the road at Sengkang’s Rivervale Crescent.
Residents told CNA that the abandoned trolleys, which come from a nearby NTUC FairPrice, have been an issue for years, despite the supermarket chain’s efforts at public education.
A spokesperson from Singapore’s largest supermarket chain told CNA then: “Last year alone, we received over 3,300 reports of unreturned and abandoned trolleys.”
It is a problem that seems to have grown over time.
In 2016, NTUC FairPrice in a press release said that it lost about 1,000 trolleys in 2015, costing the organisation more than S$150,000 in replacements, repairs and manpower required for retrieval of abandoned trolleys. This was an almost 20 per cent increase from five years before, when more than 800 trolleys were lost for the year.
In the same press release, the supermarket chain announced a Trolley Enforcement project at FairPrice outlets at Jurong Point Shopping Mall, where customers would be informed that the supermarket would take action against shoppers who wheel trolleys out from the mall.
While public education seems to be the main strategy in Singapore, could there be other methods to nudge more shoppers into returning their trolleys?
AN ELECTRONIC WHEEL LOCK AND A NATION-WIDE RETRIEVAL SYSTEM
Supermarkets overseas have tried measures including an electronic wheel lock system in Australia and a nation-wide trolley retrieval service in the UK.
In 2015, the Cairns Post reported that Australian supermarket giant Coles installed an electronic wheel lock system on trolleys for its stores located in the city of Cairns. The system clamps down on a trolley’s front wheels when it is pushed to the perimeters of shopping centres.
In response to CNA’s queries, a Coles spokesperson said that the organisation spends a “significant amount” maintaining its trolley fleet each year, which includes the cost of collecting trolleys that have been removed from store premises.
“Abandoned trolleys are a nuisance to local communities and we are actively working to make this better across the nation, including regular collections of abandoned trolleys with vehicles on the road daily and installing wheel lock systems where suitable.”
However, the spokesperson noted that the electronic wheel system is not suitable for all store sites, as the layout of a site could mean that installation is “not technically or operationally feasible”.
“The crux of the issue is the need for greater responsibility and civic-mindedness among the community. Shopping trolleys are provided as a value added service for customers and we continue to urge the public to return them after use.”
However, a Sheng Siong spokesperson said that the launch of the OneService app in 2016, which allows people to report abandoned supermarket trolleys, has helped them “a lot”.
While the OneService app and the FairPrice customer hotlines have been “useful”, public education is still the “best approach” to address the issue, said FairPrice’s spokesperson.
“We will continue to look at ways to enhance our efforts to reduce trolley abandonment, particularly through engaging and educating the community and once again remind errant shoppers to be responsible and return our trolleys after use.”
Abandoned NTUC FairPrice trolleys a daily occurrence for Rivervale Crescent residents
24 Jan 2021 06:01AM (Updated: 29 Jan 2021 04:59PM)
SINGAPORE: A line of about 20 abandoned NTUC FairPrice trolleys from July 2016 has been immortalised on Google street view, illustrating the scale of a problem that has plagued Sengkang’s Rivervale Crescent neighbourhood for a long time.
There is an NTUC FairPrice supermarket at Rivervale Mall, and abandoned trolleys in the area are a daily occurrence, said residents.
They can be seen on the grass patches along the street, below Housing Board blocks, along the corridors of certain floors and even outside flats, resident John Quek told CNA, adding that this has been a problem for more than five years.
He recently took to Facebook to complain about the issue, posting on a group page called Complaint Singapore a photograph of a snaking line of trolleys on grass patches along the main road.
“Trolleys 1km away at Rivervale Crescent, from Rivervale Mall. Poor NTUC staff had to push them all the way back,” he wrote in his comment under a post on abandoned supermarket trolleys.
Although Mr Quek has lived in Sengkang for nearly 25 years, he found that abandoned trolleys only became a problem in recent years as more people moved into the neighbourhood.
While he has written to NTUC FairPrice and reported the issue via the OneService app, he has not received any response from either of them, he said.
“I reported to NTUC and via OneService as I’m fed up I could (not) find a trolley for use during my visit to NTUC,” he said.
For people who discard their trolleys, it is probably “habitual”, said Mr Quek. “It only takes the first trolley to sacrifice S$1 deposit and the rest would just tag on to leave their trolley there and get back their S$1.”
When CNA visited Rivervale Crescent on Tuesday (Jan 19), there were several spots where trolleys had been dumped, with chains of up to 12 trolleys along the road.
Most of the trolleys were found in the area around Rivervale Mall, which is located about 10 minutes away from the blocks of flats by foot.
People who abandon the trolleys tend to be the elderly, said 58-year-old Mr Lee Ten Teck, who lives at Rivervale Crescent. “Because the old ladies need to walk quite long, so they need to push (the trolley) here.”
“If the NTUC guys never come here, you will see that (the trolleys will be) very long until they block the way,” he said.
Cleaner Sng Swee Huat, 74, who sweeps the road on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, said that he usually sees FairPrice staff members pushing the trolleys back around mid-afternoon. A few people will usually gather all the trolleys in the area and push them back together.
NTUC FairPrice said the issue of abandoned trolleys is a perennial one – not just in Rivervale Crescent – despite ongoing efforts to educate customers.
“The industry-wide problem of unreturned and abandoned trolleys is a perennial issue that we are constantly trying to address. Last year alone, we received over 3,300 reports of unreturned and abandoned trolleys,” said a spokesperson from Singapore’s largest supermarket chain.
The spokesperson added that shopping trolleys are provided as a “value-added service” for customers’ convenience, and urged all shoppers to be responsible and return their trolleys after use.
“Public education and being socially responsible is key to addressing this issue and we hope that members of the public will continue to do their part and work with us towards creating a more gracious and caring society.” Source: CNA/cc(gs)