Shopping cart bill aims to reduce dumping in streams
Wednesday, 13 February 2013 11:57

Clean Bread and Cheese Creek group supports bill

by Bill Gates

    John Long has observed people on countless occasions removing — i.e., stealing — shopping carts from store parking lots.
    He has even photographed many of them in the act.
    “They get real upset, curse me out,” said Long, the founder and president of the Clean Bread and Cheese Creek environmental group.
    Long knows where the majority of these stolen shopping carts will end up: in local streams.
    He knows this because his organization and other environmental groups have removed hundreds of carts while cleaning waterways.
    Which is why members of Clean Bread and Cheese Creek testified in favor of a bill in Annapolis that will increase the punishment for stealing shopping carts.
    Senate Bill 191, cross-filed with House Bill 156, would increase the fine for stealing a shopping cart from $25 to $100.
  

“The intent is to create greater motivation for jurisdictions to enforce it,” Long said.
    Long and other members of his group testified by telephone during a hearing before the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee and submitted supporting documents.
    The bills are sponsored by several senators and delegates at the request of Julie Lawson, lead organizer for the Trash Free Maryland Alliance.
    Legislators from the 6th District are not among the named sponsors, but all of the local lawmakers have expressed their support for the bill.
    The Judicial Proceedings committee wanted to know what kind of damage shopping carts did to the environment, Long said.
    “They wanted to know how often we found [abandoned shopping carts],” Long said. “We find them a lot.”
    Representatives from Baltimore County wanted numbers, so Long and his group took videos and  photos to post online “and show them there are crazy amounts” of stolen and abandoned shopping carts clogging streams.
    The group never finds any shopping carts from stores like Aldi’s, B.J.’s and Shoppers Food Warehouse, places which use cart control devices.
    Other businesses say using control devices and paying for the retrieval of stolen carts would increase costs for consumers, Long said.
    “But our research shows carts cost about $200 apiece,” Long said. “Paying $100 to retrieve a stolen cart saves them money.”
    A system like that used at Aldi’s, where carts are locked and customers must insert a quarter (refunded when the cart is returned)  to get a cart, add about $25 to the cost of a cart.
    Magnetic wheel locks on carts (which engage after a cart is removed from the location of a store) add about $30 to the price of a cart.
    “It’s still saving money over the cost of a full cart,” Long said.
    People remove shopping carts from store grounds to haul groceries to the bus stop, or to their homes, Long said.
    He has also observed teens stealing carts, playing around in them, and then dumping them in streams.
    The bills have not yet left their respective committees, but Long said Lawson has reported the outlook is good for both.
    Trash Free Maryland is also supporting two other environmental bills in the current legislative session.
    The Community Cleanup and Greening Act would impose a five-cent fee on disposable plastic and paper bags.
    Two cents would go to the retailer, while the other three cents would go to purchase and distribute reusable bags to low-income and elderly people; to counties to apply for water quality improvement projects; and to the Chesapeake Bay Trust to administer as environmental restoration grants.
    “A bag fee can have a substantial impact on litter, because it encourages shoppers to use reusable bags,” Lawson said on her blog at Trashfreemaryland.org. “If the program never collects a nickel because everyone switches to reusables, we will have achieved our goal.”
    The other bill would apply a container deposit, a refundable charge to every plastic, glass and aluminum container sold in Maryland.
    Older residents probably remember collecting empty soda bottles as children and returning them to collect the five-cent deposit.
    The program would add a few cents to the cost of bottled beverages, but the money can be refunded by taking the containers to a recycling facility.
    “Maryland currently recycles just 22 percent of these containers,” Lawson wrote. “Michigan, which had a 10-cent deposit, recycles 90 percent.”