Abandoned shopping carts policy at Sault to streamline recovery time, adviser says

Many retailers and communities find it difficult to collect stray shopping carts. They end up being abandoned in ditches, on city streets, or on public or private property.

The City of Sault Ste. Marie tackles the problem, along with city councilor Matthew Shoemaker hopes to fix the problem once and for all. He says it is a constant problem in his parish.

“They are unsightly; often they will be filled with garbage, if people take it home, put their garbage in there and then push it into the woods,” he said. There could also be a liability issue for the city or a retailer if someone is injured, involving a shopping cart.

Matthew Shoemaker is a municipal councilor in Sault Ste. Married. (Facebook / Matthieu Cordonnier)

Shoemaker says there is an area in town where there are at least five outlets and all of them have their own shopping carts. Customers leave the store property with a cart to help them carry their purchases home, then abandon the cart.

“Whether it’s in their own backyard, on the boulevard, on the sidewalk, by the side of the road, in a trail, in a park, there is never a shortage of places to throw them,” said Shoemaker. “There have been reports of carts 10 to 12 kilometers from these stores, so they are traveling.”

Streamline payback time

Under the new regulation, each retail store must submit a management plan for the recovery and return of abandoned carts found outside of their property lines. This plan shows who to contact at the store if you have a complaint about a stray cart. They will have a set time limit to retrieve it.

“It can’t be once every three months,” Shoemaker said. “It has to be timely. It has to be a system where once they are notified, a process is triggered that kicks the cart off the boulevard, off the sidewalk, off private property.”

Most retailers already have some sort of process for collecting shopping carts that have been removed from store ownership, but collection times are all different.

“What we’re trying to do is streamline the process.” Shoemaker said it would likely be between five and ten days for retailers to pick up the cart. There could also be a fine for the store if the cart is not collected within the allotted time.

Two years to find a solution

It was in November 2019, Shoemaker proposed a resolution after researching what other municipalities had done to reduce abandoned shopping cart issues. The settlement was approved Monday evening.

“It took almost two years to present a draft regulation on the effective implementation of a correction or solution to the problem,” he said.

“I think having something in place is a better place to start than just complaining about it to the board over the past decade, which has happened in the past,” Shoemaker said.

One grocery store, Pino’s, says that in an average year it loses about 25 carts worth about $ 200 each. The store management hires someone to collect their abandoned carts.

The Sault Ste. Marie comes into effect in September.


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Peggy P. Gilmore