Shopping trolley loophole leaves Auckland Countdown responsible for rubbish dump
A fixture of many gritty metropolitan street curbs, the abandoned shopping trolley is an object few authorities are eager to take responsibility for.
And it turns out that who is responsible isn't as clear as you might think.
On May 16, Kaipatiki Local Board chair Danielle Grant reported three derelict shopping trolleys, filled and surrounded with inorganic rubbish, at 450 Glenfield Rd, Glenfield, on Auckland's North Shore.
Labelled as belonging to the Glenfield Mall Countdown, Grant's first response was to notify Auckland Council of the rubbish dump, she saw out the window of the her local board office, to have collected. This, she was told by the council, would happen within 10 days.
But, on inspection of the site by rubbish collection contractors, the council informed her of a loophole in the burden of responsibility for clearing public rubbish dumps.
If the rubbish is within a shopping trolley, then the requirement to clear it falls on the supermarket the trolleys belong to.
"Because shopping trolleys are private property the expectation is supermarkets are meant to take the rubbish and put it in their own dumpsters," Grant said.
"I think what it's probably meant to do is stop rubbish contractors picking up trolleys. Presumably, if there's an abandoned trolley you don't want the contractors picking it up as inorganic rubbish.
"For the owner of the trolleys, even if they're a little bit damaged, they're still quite a valuable asset."
Auckland Council general manager of waste solutions Ian Stupple confirmed this is the protocol for collecting publicly dumped trolleys.
"Under the Solid Waste Bylaw, the business owner's details, the supermarket name, need to be clearly identified on their trolleys which is usually shown on the handle," Stupple said.
"The owner of the trolley is responsible for ensuring that customers do not remove trolleys from the premises, and for collecting trolleys that have been removed and abandoned. The trolley owner is also responsible for disposal of any rubbish left in their trolleys."
Stupple said council notified relevant businesses when abandoned trolleys were reported, and would remove only trolleys with no identifying business labels.
Yet, having determined who was legally responsible for the trolleys, the actual process of getting them removed has been an ordeal for Grant over the past two weeks.
Upon contacting the Downing St Glenfield Mall Countdown, where the trolleys came from, Grant was informed the supermarket has an arrangement with the broader Glenfield Mall management to collect its trolleys.
Yet this information was not accurate, and left Grant doing a run-around back and forth between Glenfield Mall and Countdown trying to get trolleys collected for the next 10 days.
Countdown general manager of corporate affairs James Walker said the response Grant was given from Glenfield Countdown was wrong, and likely a case of staff not being totally familiar with correct procedure.
"In this instance, we believe there has been a misunderstanding by one of our team at the Glenfield store who was contacted about the nearby abandoned trolleys. We've spoken with the team to reiterate the correct process," Walker said.
Walker said Countdown spends millions of dollars every year on replacement trolleys around New Zealand, and employs independent contractors to collect trolleys left in public.
In contrast with Grant's account, Glenfield Mall chief executive Kim Bennett said the first they had heard from Grant was 5pm, May 26, at which point they informed Countdown's independently contracted trolley collectors who retrieved them from 450 Glenfield Rd.
Grant says she was first in contact with Glenfield Mall numerous days before this.
"Is it practical for the community to have to make multiple phone calls to ask for our neighbourhood to be tidy?" Grant asks.
"I don't think it is reasonable for everyone else to spend a couple of hours on this type of thing."
As of May 31, the rubbish at 450 Glenfield Rd, which had surrounded the trolleys, had continued to grow, including a toilet.
This rubbish pile is solely Auckland Council's duty to remove.
However, to Grant's despair, another trolley has also arrived.
To report an abandoned Countdown owned trolley call 0800 40 40 40.
To report publicly dumped inorganic rubbish to Auckland Council call (09) 301 0101.