how does trolley abandonment waste resouces

How Does Trolley Abandonment Waste Resources?

I wanted to combine abandoned trolleys with misplaced books in libraries, not returning groceries to the original shelves, etc but I realize the problem of abandoned trolleys deserves their own post. I have seen an increasing number of trolleys abandoned in my neighbourhood so I wanted to write about this. Similar to not returning trays, it is sad that we have to discuss the issue of trolley abandonment.

consumelesslife Singapore abandoned trolley

Wild trolley appears

consumelesslife Singapore multiple abandoned trolleys

What are these people thinking?

There is a short segment on Channel 8 that covers the problem of trolley abandonment, specifically at the Jurong Point NTUC at Boon Lay MRT. The usage of trolleys is technically limited within the compound.

Source: MeWatch

The segment starts at about 14:10

The video shows three NTUC employees having to push back more than 30 abandoned trolleys on foot to the NTUC FairPrice outlet at Jurong Point 1km away.

Source: MeWatch

One of them is Mr Chee, who has been doing it for 11 years. The team has to go out 2 – 3 times a day to locate and bring back the trolleys. An estimated 30 – 80 trolleys have to be “rescued” every day.

NTUC push back trolleys

Source: MeWatch

And this is only for one major supermarket outlet. A typical trip to rescue trolleys can go up to 2.5km and the return trip takes about 40mins  for a trolley rescue operation. The furthest they went is to NTU to get back the trolley.

NTU to Jurong Point trolley rescue

Source: Google

According to Google Maps, the distance between Jurong Point and NTU is about 4 – 5 KM one way. This means that the trolley rescue team has to travel 8 – 10 KM both ways.

Abandoned trolleys can be found at

  • Garbage disposal
  • HDB Void Decks
  • Along the pavement

Financial Cost Of Trolley Abandonment

NTUC FairPrice states that the collection of trolleys wastes manpower, time and money. Each trolley costs about S$130 – S$160.

They have to spend S$145,000 for returning efforts, repair misused trolleys and replacing lost trolleys. The trolleys are not designed to travel over various terrains like roads so they should not be removed from the compound in the first place. Pushing trolleys on surfaces that are not designed for damages the trolley.

This has indirectly lowered the wages of the employees and increased the cost of the items sold at FairPrice. Instead, the money goes to employing trolley rescuers and replacing and repairing trolleys.

Environmental Impact Of Trolley Abandonment

For every missing or spoiled trolley due to trolley abandonment, resources have to be spent to purchase or repair the trolleys. The main part of these trolleys is made of metal. Metal takes a lot of heat energy to bring it to the shape of the trolley so for every trolley that has to be replaced, it is a waste of energy. Directing resources to places when we can avoid them is always a waste.

Trolley Abandonment Especially Serious At Jurong Point’s NTUC  

This matter has plagued NTUC FairPrice for many years. The same programme has covered this issue 6 years ago in a segment in 2015. Management says that this problem is especially serious at Jurong Point due to various reasons

  • Two FairPrice Outlets at Jurong Point
  • One of the outlets is open 24 hours
  • There are many exits
  • HDB flats nearby

In 2016, NTUC FairPrice at Jurong Point attempted to perform some enforcement over the misplacement of trolleys in hopes of improving the situation.

They placed many trolley return points around the mall with reminders to return the trolleys. The number of trolleys being misplaced dropped at first but the abandonment rates went up after they stopped the enforcement.

number of misplaced trolleys reports

Source: MeWatch

There is a decreasing trend from 2018 to 2020 but in 2021, it is on its way to break the 2018 record of 4,000 cases. Out of the 1500 cases in the first 4 months this year, 120 cases are related to the two outlets (FairPrice and FairPrice Xtra) in Jurong Point.

These are the number of 148 FairPrice outlets

  • 10 NTUC Xtra
  • 2 Warehouse Club
  • 29 NTUC Finest
  • 107 FairPrice

The two outlets at Jurong Point make up 1.3% of the total outlets but they take up 8% of all FairPrice trolley abandonments cases for the first 4 months in 2021.

Reporting abandoned trolleys via the OneService app. It is so serious that it occupies a slot amongst illegal parking and safe distancing.

OneService Abandoned Trolley

Source: OneService App

We have to take note that this is only talking about NTUC. We still have Giant, Cold Storage, Sheng Siong, Prime Supermarket, etc. On the OneService app, we can also see Ikea and Mustafa under the Abandoned Trolley section.

Sheng Siong with 60 outlets says that they also face problems regarding misplaced trolleys.

Why Do People Abandon Trolleys?

Professor Liang in the programme says that the act of abandonment can be narrowed down to two reasons.

People Only Think About Themselves

These people are inconsiderate and only think about themselves. There is no responsibility towards society. They do not consider the fact that someone has to push back the trolley. This is similar to littering where for the sake of their convenience, they selfishly disregard the repercussions (e.g. someone has to clear it, it makes a mess, destruction of property).

Right To Use Trolley

After spending money at the supermarket, these individuals feel that they have the right to use the trolley however they want as they brought business to the grocery store. The use of trolleys is seen as part of the supermarket visit.

Reasons Given For Pushing Trolleys Out Of The Compound

They did an interview near Jurong Point and here are some reasons why people push the trolleys out of the compound.

  • Groceries are too heavy
  • There is a “collection point” below their house
  • Can’t carry all their groceries in one trip
  • Only staying at the HDB opposite the mall

Although the job is physically tiring, Mr Chee is still very understanding to the old folks that need the trolley to bring back the groceries.

The misplacing of trolleys is so common that the residents and cleaners automatically help Mr Chee consolidate the trolleys at a point for him to bring them back.

trolley void deck

Source: MeWatch

These are the “collection points” mentioned at the void deck as seen in the picture above. They are not official collection points from FairPrice. The issue of abandoning trolleys should not be normalized.

Mr Chee still hopes that these trolley misplacers can be considerate and return the trolleys back to the outlet when they are done with it.

Potential Solutions To Solving The Abandoned Trolleys Problem

The program interviewed some members of the public and sociologists for what kind of solutions they think can alleviate the trolley abandonment problem.

Solutions From The Public

Here are some of the solutions sourced from the public

  • Fine
  • Education
  • Higher deposit requirement

Solutions From Sociologists

Sociologists feel that not returning the trolleys is the same as not returning trays and not wearing masks. The act of trolley abandonment reflects the moral standards of these people.

civil- ducation textbooks

They should have paid attention during the civic and moral education lessons in primary school.

Source: Twitter – Mr.Brown

They suggest using both the carrot and the whip to change the bad habits.

Whip – law to punish those that flout the laws

Carrot – education, reminders, reasons for not abandoning

Solutions From Me

Besides all those mentioned, I think that we can help those people who have trouble carry groceries order online if they do not have access or know how to order delivery.

The FairPrice mobile supermarkets can also help the elderly so that they do not have to travel so far.

I hope the younger generation that is more sensitive to social issues can break the chain and stop the problem of trolley abandonment.

TL, DR

The trolley abandonment problem is a waste of money, manpower and time. Jobs are created for a problem that should not have existed. The reasons for trolley abandonment boils down to the individuals being selfish and having the right to use the trolleys however they want to. Be considerate and if you have to push the trolley back home, remember to push it back.

Check out my Breaking The Marketer’s Code series here.

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