Shopping Trolleys: can you sell or scrap them, or is it stealing?

Abandoned shopping trolleys are a common sight, often seen straying just outside the supermarket’s car park, down a random side street, or upturned in the canal. But what should you do if you find them?

Trolley theft is a bigger problem than you might think – the retail industry estimates that there are close to one million shopping trolleys abandoned per year. This costs British businesses around £35m per year (more than £95,000 every day) with most of those trolleys ending up in UK waterways and rivers or discarded and left to rot.

You might think you’re doing a good deed by taking any stray trolleys to your local scrap metal merchant for recycling if they’re too far away from the big Tesco. However, those looking to make a quick quid by selling a shopping trolley to their local scrapyard may be in for a shock.

The British Metals Recycling Association have put out new guidance this month to remind members that it is illegal to sell shopping trolleys to scrap metal merchants. They are the property of the supermarket or shop they came from and there’s extensive guidance, provided by the Government, on what to do with abandoned shopping trolleys.

So, what can you do with them? 

The BMRA have teamed up to support TrolleyWise, a national service where you can report stolen or lost trolleys. All you have to do is take a picture and enter the location of where you found the trolley. They will then send out a local TrolleyWise team to collect and, hopefully, reunite it with the supermarket it was taken from.

If the trolley was found in a waterway, the Government advice is to use specialist contractors and liaise with the Environment Agency to remove trolleys from rivers and waterways. You should also contact the Canals and Rivers Trust about trolleys found in their inland waterways. TrolleyWise will also collect trolleys from waterways if you notify them via their website or app.

Other types of scrap metal that, by law, cannot be bought or sold includes:

  • Items carrying a Smartwater forensic liquid mark – items fluoresce yellow under ultra-violet light.
  • BT, railway and utility company cable – telecommunications cabling, overhead cable, high voltage cables and signalling cables.
  • Beer barrels – Keg Watch is helping the brewing industry combat keg, cask and gas cylinder theft – call 0808 100 1945 for more info.
  • Railway track.
  • Gas cylinders – Only the owner of a gas cylinder can authorise its scrapping, e.g., Calor, BOC, Air Products, etc.
  • Stolen scrap metal.

Please do not ask us to recycle stolen scrap metal; we will report it to the police.

As a licensed waste transfer station, a member of the British Metal Recycling Association and an authorised treatment centre for scrap cars, Singleton’s Scrap Metal works in partnership with the British Transport Police to combat scrap metal theft.

If you suspect anyone of metal theft, please report it to the British Transport Police on 0800 40 50 40 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.


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