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Abandoned shopping carts growing nuisance

CEO of Kasper Transportation asks city to hold grocery store owners responsible for abandoned carts.
ShoppingCartsSized
A local business owner asked the City of Thunder Bay to take action to address the issue of abandoned shopping carts. (Darren MacDonald/Sudbury.com)

THUNDER BAY – A local business owner is pushing the city to take action on what he calls the growing problem of abandoned shopping carts.

Kasper Wabinski, CEO of Kasper Transportation, told city councillors the problem was hurting businesses like his, and that attempts to come to a solution with grocery stores had proved fruitless.

He appeared before city council Monday asking the city to hold businesses that offer shopping carts responsible for the issue.

“I do believe there could be something done about it,” he said, pointing out some stores had introduced carts that lock when removed from store property.

Wabinski, whose business is located near a Real Canadian Superstore and Walmart along a public transit corridor on Memorial Avenue, estimated carts were left on his property several times a month, sometimes up to 10 at a time.

The carts are an eyesore that reflect badly on his business, he said, and impede snow removal operations, potentially upping costs.

 “Our staff is a little bit older when it comes to snow removal,” he added. “It’s not something I’d like to expect of our staff that they have to go physically push these carts around in the snow.”

Wabinski said his requests for grocery stores to more regularly remove the carts, as well as an offer to return them himself for a fee, had been rebuffed.

“We confronted the Walmart managers requesting that they [take] the effort to clean up those carts,” he said. “They informed me they have a schedule in place for clean up only twice a week, and they refuse to take extra [action on] the matter.”

Several councillors expressed sympathy over Mr. Wabinski’s frustration, but questioned whether the city had the ability to resolve the issue.

Doug Vincent, manager of licensing and enforcement for the city, said two city bylaws could apply to the situation – one on property maintenance, and another that addressed roadway obstructions.

Even so, any city policy on the problem would be difficult to enforce, said Mark Smith, general manager of development and emergency services.

“I think it’s a challenge for us at the moment to simply go after the organization from whom the cart has been stolen,” he said. “But we certainly appreciate what the deputant has said, and we’re happy to work toward finding a solution.”

Other Ontario municipalities have instituted fines that target both business owners and individuals for stray shopping carts, while Sudbury and Sault Ste. Marie have recently considered municipal responses to the nuisance.

Coun. Peng You said the city should look to target the real culprits – those who remove the carts from store property.

“We all know that people bring the carts to certain places,” said Coun. Peng You. “What kind of education program can help make people realize this is really harmful for businesspeople?”

According to Vincent, the problem of abandoned shopping carts is one that’s common but difficult for the city to get a handle on.

“Many municipalities have experienced the same problem Thunder Bay has,” he said. “Finding a city solution that fits is very difficult.”

He pointed to public education and working with company owners as a good place to start.

The deputation concluded without a motion passed by council, though city staff pledged to work with Mr. Wabinski to try to reoslve the issue.

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