Members of the ERA committee went on a quest to rescue abandoned supermarket trolleys from around the Eddington estate. In line with COVID restrictions, six members split into three pairs and collected 27 trolleys over a one hour search.
The ERA is aware some residents are concerned about abandoned trolleys. One resident posted on Facebook, "When we walk around Eddington we see trolleys everywhere and sometimes wonder if there are any left at their rightful place."
The search area included the sports fields, private housing and key worker apartment areas. All the recovered trolleys were found around the key worker housing although trolleys are occasionally seen as far as the Park and Ride to the south and Huntingdon Road to the north. The search started at 10am on Saturday 13 March and all recovered trolleys were returned to the Eddington Sainsbury's store front.
In a recent ERA - Portal meeting, Portal stated they do not collect trolleys and that it is a matter for Sainsbury's.
A Sainsbury's spokesperson said their staff only collect trolleys from the car park and the east side of the building, adding they are unable to collect trolleys from a wider area for insurance and other reasons.
There are contractors who offer to retrieve abandoned trolleys but they charge the supermarket for this service. The company Wanzl Ltd offer an app 'TrolleyWise' where anyone can report an abandoned trolley using their smartphone and 'the nearest Trolleywise collection team... will then do the rest'. We asked Wanzl whether they charge supermarkets for this service, they replied that the ERA will not be charged but declined to answer whether the supermarket is charged, stating, "Charges to the supermarkets is confidential information".
With no formal system for collecting trolleys from the wider Eddington estate, what determines the equilibrium number of abandoned trolleys? Could Queueing Theory provide an answer? I struggled to come up with a model but a supermarket trolley theory which became popular following a Twitter post from Jared in Atlanta, May 2020, states, "To return the shopping cart is the ultimate litmus test for whether a person is capable of self-governing. To return the shopping cart is an easy, convenient task and one which we all recognize as the correct, appropriate thing to do."
The ERA was happy to retrieve the 27 trolleys for free and we enjoyed the exercise.