Cleaning the river one shopping trolley at a time – what are supermarkets doing about the problem?

The latest pile of trolleys collected from Richmond River in Casino.

Susanna Freymark

Ben West and his mate have removed more than 60 trolleys from the Richmond River since 2014.

Those are the ones they can find. Ben reckons there’s a lot more out there and the problem of dumped trolleys is getting worse.

Removing shopping trolleys is heavy work and often Ben and his mate use an angle grinder to cut the trolley wedged on rocks and mud. Then they lift the trolley up the steep riverbank.

Ben works with youth in Casino and part of what drives him is engaging young people to help keep the river clean.  He sees it as a way to possibly employ young people too.

Ben West, centre, with the group who helped clean up after the floods. Photo: Contributed

Ben met with trolley contractors from Coles and Woolworths last year.

He said trolleys cost about $600 each and the cost of retrieving them is expensive depending on where the trolleys are located.

“We could pay young people to get the trolleys out,” Ben said.

Ben worked with a small group of youth who had been impacted by the 2022 floods to clean up flood rubbish and the river. His work was funded by a Regional Youth Grant.

He helped establish a bush tucker walk and yarning circle on the banks of the Richmond River in Casino.

The trolleys though, remain a pollution problem with many ending up at Grays Falls, a natural spot in the river where the trolleys get stuck.

Ben would like to see supermarkets own the problem and use electronic wheel clamping on their trolleys. This prevents a shopping trolley being taken beyond the car park – the wheels lock and the trolley can’t move. And it can’t be dumped in the river.

IndyNR.com contacted Woolworths and Coles. Aldi is less of a problem because a token or gold coin is required to use their trollies.

Woolworths said they would speak with the Casino store manager who was away and provide a statement on the issue this week.

A Coles spokesperson said abandoned trolleys were a nuisance to local communities.

The trolleys dumped in the river at Casino.

“We are actively working to make this better in Casino, including regular collections of abandoned trolleys with vehicles on the road frequently.”

“We are always reassessing our trolley management and take local feedback into account when deciding what methods to employ at any of our stores, including the use of coin locks and electronic wheel lock systems.”

Coles did not say if an electric wheel lock system would be put in place and refused to give specific details about any trolley plans for Casino.

Coles has an app to report trolleys using GPS, Snap Send Solve or by calling 1800 876 553.

“We’ll collect them as soon as possible.”

About seven years ago, Ben featured on the front page of the Express Examiner. He was photographed pulling a trolley from the river.

Both supermarkets could end the problem of dumped trolleys by installing the locked trolley wheels. It really is that simple.

Richmond River at Casino. Photos: Susanna Freymark
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