It’s not something you think of when you’re navigating a shopping cart through the aisles of your favorite store, but what happens to shopping carts when they’re old, rusted and no longer usable? Recycling metal carts seems like a no-brainer, but what happens to the plastic ones?
Chris Nelson, owner and vice president of The Peggs Company, says his company has been keeping these bulky items out of the landfill for years, recycling both metal and plastic shopping carts, in addition to selling new carts. The Riverside, Calif.-based company works nationally with major retailers such as Target, Wal-Mart and Kmart.
The most economical – and environmental – way to handle old shopping carts is to repair and refurbish them to extend their useful lives. But when a shopping cart is beyond repair, Peggs will break down the cart into its material streams – plastics and metals – and sell them to recycling companies.
A plastic shopping cart is predominately made up of rigid plastic #2 HDPE or #5 PP, which can be ground and blended with virgin plastic to make new rigid plastic products. Some components in shopping carts are made from plastic #7 ABS, which Peggs also separates for recycling.
“We even recycle the seat belt material,” Nelson says.
Metal shopping carts coated with a layer of plastic can also be recycled: The plastic separates from the metal as the cart runs through a shredder, according to Sims Recycling Solutions, a metal and electronics recycler with locations worldwide.
Supervalu’s line of stores, which includes Lucky, Albertsons and Jewel-Osco, also works with Peggs and other companies to recycle their old shopping carts.
“Our goal is to recycle as many of the shopping carts as possible to avoid sending them to the landfill,” says Shaun Kochivar, Supervalu’s manager of environmental sustainability.
What about all those stolen shopping carts that end up dumped in creeks or parks?
Municipalities will usually contract with a company to either recycle or dispose of littered shopping carts, Sims management says.
To discourage individuals from stealing metal shopping carts to sell for quick cash, Sims only accepts carts from the store itself or a shopping cart vendor.
Los Angeles artist Ramón Coronado took another approach to dealing with shopping carts he found littered in his low-income, crime-afflicted neighborhood. He reclaimed the abandoned shopping carts to build outdoor furniture, so local children would have safe outdoor recreational areas in which to play.
Across the pond in the United Kingdom, the eco-minded design store Reestore also makes furniture from old shopping carts, but offers their products for sale to lovers of good design and sustainable living. Made from what the Brits call “shopping trolleys,” the Annie chair runs $880, but is unfortunately not available for shipment outside of the U.K.
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