09 September 2010

Woolworths back pedals on environment commitments

Consumer Watch Media Release

- Woolworths slammed after trolley coin lock removal starts in Ipswich -

Australian supermarket giant Woolworths with over 700 stores across the nation is under fire for phasing out its coin-operated shopping trolleys.

The scheme was introduced voluntarily in 2009 as an environmental initiative to minimise theft and reduce abandoned trolleys in local parks and waterways.

In Queensland, it was extended to more than a dozen Woolworths stores across Greater Brisbane.

A one or two dollar coin is required to free a trolley which is automatically refunded to the shopper when the trolley is returned.

At the 2009 Local Government Conference in Bundaberg, councils from across Queensland voted to enforce coin operated trolleys for major supermarket chains.

Councils subsequently reported a massive reduction in abandoned trolleys in parks and creeks after Woolworths joined Aldi in the coin-operated scheme.

Yesterday without warning, the coin mechanisms were removed from 150 trolleys at the Woolworths store in the Ipswich suburb of Brassall under the direction of new store manager Steve Gothard.

Queensland Consumer Watch spokesman Ipswich Councillor Paul Tully said Mr Gothard had undergone a radical change of heart on shopping trolleys since his days as store manager at Woolworths' Buranda.

On 20 May 2009, in front of television cameras and Brisbane's Lord Mayor Campbell Newman, Mr Gothard proudly commented on abandoned trolleys: "This causes not only environmental issues but safety issues too with trolleys sometimes left in the middle of streets. Although we have many systems in place to retrieve abandoned trolleys the situation was such that we have consulted the community and coin locks were seen as good way forward to reduce the number dumped."

Cr Tully said Steve Gothard appeared to be no longer worried about environmental or safety issues after arriving in Ipswich a few weeks ago.

Cr Tully slammed Woolworths for its "un-Australian, anti-environment" decision which he said would lead to increased visual pollution, clogged waterways and more runaway trolleys in shopping centre carparks.

"You rarely see an abandoned Aldi trolley because if the shopper doesn't return the trolley the local kids soon will, to boost their pocket money."

Cr Tully called for shoppers to boycott Woolworths until it abandoned its latest "environmental insanity".

"Woolworths obviously cares more about profits than protecting the Australian environment."

Cr Tully said Woolworths were in for a major shock in Ipswich with plans already underway to amend the city's local laws to force all major supermarkets to have coin-operated locks on their shopping trolleys.

"They will have to put the coin locks back on their trolleys.

"The corporate knuckle heads running Woolworths stand condemned for their decision to phase-out coin-operated trolleys which have significantly reduced abandoned trolleys across the suburbs."

Cr Tully said he had been tipped off the Woolworths Collingwood Park store at the corner of Eagle St and Collingwood Drive would also soon have its 100 trolley coin locks removed followed by other stores.

"Woolworths have acted with more secrecy on this issue than a criminal trial in Communist China," Cr Tully said.

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