March 22, 2023 1.00 pm This story is over 8 months old

Campaigners urge supermarket to tackle chalk stream trolley dumps

The supermarket has promised to increase security

Campaigners are urging the supermarket chain Morrisons to take more action to tackle the scourge of trolley dumping into the River Freshney near its store.

Like many other national supermarket chains, Morrisons uses Trolleywise, run by trolley manufacturer Wanzl, to collect its dumped trolleys. Trolley dumping has become a problem increasingly spotlighted on in North East Lincolnshire. But campaigners are particularly concerned about trolleys from Morrisons Laceby being dumped, due to its proximity to the River Freshney.

Members of Freshney Comrades, a conservation group set up to clean and monitor the River Freshney, teamed up with James Elliot, the Canoe River Cleaner, and took matters into their own hands. On Friday, March 17, trolleys were pulled out of the river close to Morrisons Laceby and returned to the supermarket’s front door. Bird seed supplier Haith agreed to offer £10 per trolley retrieved.

Morrisons has said it is aware of some trolleys not being collected as quickly as usual and is looking into it to avoid it happening again. A senior figure from Wanzl praised campaigners’ efforts and explained that health and safety regulations made river collections more complicated. They also stressed in their experience that Morrisons was an ethical and responsible company.

“Morrisons Grimsby don’t lock their trolleys up at night,” James Elliot said after the Friday clean up. “They do not operate a coin or a perimeter wheel lock system. So what happens? They get taken from the store and often end up in our beautiful river that myself and the Freshney Comrades volunteers work so hard to keep clean and debris free.”

James Elliot, also known as the Canoe River Cleaner, with a trolley retrieved from the River Freshney.

James said the campaigners had previously collected trolleys from the river and returned them, not an easy task. They had requested Morrisons offer £10 per trolley returned to help cover costs. But Morrisons responded only that it would tighten up its operations.

“Morrisons, like many stores, use Trolleywise to collect their trolleys. It’s a national thing. That said, not every Morrisons sits yards away from a rare chalk stream which is home to important wildlife and plant species not typically found in other environments.”

James spoke to Trolleywise’s Ian Burton and was asked as well as to report on the app to nudge about trolleys in the river. Two were reported on February 22 and another seven on March 2. But with the trolleys remaining in the river, campaigners took matters into their own hands and removed them after obtaining the support from Haith’s.

“Our river is important for the wellbeing of the residents, and the wildlife that call it home, and I refuse to let this be compromised,” added James Elliot. Lyndsey Downes, another participant in the Friday trolley collection, said she herself had been in touch with Morrisons head office for 12 months about the problem.

She has had assurances of action such as liaising with Trolleywise, locking away trollies at night and considering the return of £1 deposits, but is unconvinced this is known about at the store level. “It’s disheartening that members of the public are working so hard to keep our area nice and Morrisons aren’t doing their part,” she argued.

“We hope this will raise the profile of our plight and ensure Morrisons support the volunteers keeping this area amazing,” she added. Ms Downes, who will be standing as an independent candidate for council in Freshney ward in May, said over 100 reports of trolleys dumped in the River Freshney had been made to Trolleywise since the year’s start.

A Morrisons spokesperson told the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS): “We’re aware that some abandoned trolleys have not been collected as quickly as usual – we are looking into what has gone wrong to avoid this happening again.”

Wanzl’s service integration manager Ian Burton said the timeframe with which reported dumped trolleys are collected by Trolleywise when in water was different. Because of health and safety regulations, two people were required as a minimum for Trolleywise to retrieve trolleys dumped in water.

“It does take a bit longer,” he admitted. He said when he had last been in contact with James Elliot, he was aware of two trolleys in the river. He stressed that he was happy for Freshney Comrades and Mr Elliot to contact him directly so trolleys dumped in the river were prioritised for collection.

“I understand people’s frustrations,” he added, and believed improved communications would help it be prioritised. As for possible funding of the campaigners’ own clean-up efforts, Mr Burton said he had committed to talking to Morrisons about a possible scheme.

He had helped set up for a one-off grant from a separate retailer to a similar group in Colchester last year. “If we can stop them going in, that’s the best course of action we can get to,” he said, noting it was a problem faced across the country. Last year, Trolleywise collected 385,000 dumped trolleys in the UK.

Trolleywise also teamed up in October with Marc Lawless, a member of Freshney Comrades, and Leeds magnet fishers to collect 50 trolleys from the river in Grimsby. “They’re doing a brilliant job,” Mr Burton said of the campaigners’ efforts, and he would have enjoyed being at the Friday collection.

He looked forward to working with everyone involved for solutions to the trolley dumping problem near the Morrisons supermarket. Last month, Scartho ward Cllr Ian Lindley welcomed constructive talks with Aldi after a number of their trolleys were dumped in Scartho Dyke.

The supermarket committed to ensuring security was tighter overnight on the trolleys at its Matthew Telford Park store.