STATEWIDE If Beaverton city officials have their way, abandoned shopping carts will be retailers’ misfortunes and none of their own. The city could become the first in Oregon to pass an ordinance around a state law allowing cities to fine stores that fail to round up wayward shopping carts.
The law, which takes effect this month, requires retailers to label carts with their name, address and a toll-free number for reporting abandonment. Signs must also be posted declaring it a crime to remove carts from store property. When carts do make their way off the premises, retailers will have three days to retrieve them. After that, the city can pick them up and charge owners a $50 fine to get them back. Any carts not claimed after 30 days become city property.
“These things are thrown into ditches and are sort of unsightly,” says Beaverton city attorney Alan Rappleyea. “It’s something we’ve been dealing with piece by piece by piece for years, so we’re eager to get it done.”
A first reading of the Beaverton ordinance occurred in mid-December, and a vote is expected Jan. 7. If passed, it will be enacted in early February.
The Northwest Grocery Association supported passage of the state law because it requires a uniform system for addressing the problem across the state and protects retailers making a full effort to get back their carts. In anticipation of cities adopting ordinances to enforce the rule, the group has been maintaining a 24-hour hotline for reporting abandoned carts and corresponding pick-up service since October. Association president Joe Gilliam said around 2,200 carts were recovered in the Salem and Portland areas over the course of 30 days in October, and though exact numbers were not available at press time, he estimates the toll was similar for November.
Seven area retailers currently participate in the service, and Gilliam says the NWGA has received inquiries from others interested in joining up. Individual stores pay for each of their carts picked up by six trucks operating 10 hours per day, six days per week. Each pays an average of $200 per month, Gilliam estimates, but it tends to be worth their while.
“Those 2,200 carts represent $220,000 in capital investment,” he says.
Other municipalities around the state are also considering ordinances crafted around the state law. Laura Bridges-Shepard, communications manager for Gresham, says the city council there has been tracking the issue and hopes to eventually enact its own code, possibly in the first quarter of this year. In the meantime, she says the city will be looking at early adopters around the state to see what works.
Salem mayor Janet Taylor says officials there plan to review the state law in February or March before deciding how to proceed.
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