Supermarket trolleys littering the rivers around Tonbridge are environmentally damaging and a potential danger to life, a town flood warden has warned.
Carl Lewis says he has seen an increase in the anti-social behavior of people throwing trolleys into the water and is calling on supermarkets and residents to help tackle the persistent issue.
The problem is at its worst on stretches of the River Medway near Sovereign Way between Sainsbury’s and Waitrose.
Mr Lewis, whose voluntary team works with the Environment Agency and borough council, says this problem is exacerbated by riverbank littering which poses a danger to riverside wildlife as well as undermining civic pride.
The Environment Agency has also warned the issue will create greater flood risks, as ditched trolleys become entangled with fallen branches that increase the build-up of debris in the water.
Mr Lewis said: “This is an ongoing problem with trolleys being dumped that is down to the fact that the supermarkets here are right by the river.
“If someone becomes a bit silly on a night out and is throwing things into the river, then they are putting their own lives at risk.”
Mr Lewis has approached the town’s supermarkets to help combat the problem and Sainsbury’s has already confirmed it is increasing patrols of its car parks.
However, Mr Lewis took the Times on a tour to show how in the last few days, several more trolleys have been ditched in the River Medway and its tributaries, as well as others abandoned in outer areas around the riverside.
Local authorities in other areas are already taking a tough stance on the dilemma. A recent case in the North of England involving Tesco established that councils now have the ability to fine supermarkets up to £20,000 for failing to clamp down on customers abusing trolleys.
Auria Dee, Environment Agency spokesperson, said: “The River Medway is one of the things that makes Tonbridge great, and I would ask everyone to care for their river. Shopping trolleys, like other types of rubbish, do not belong in the river.
“They are a danger to wildlife, and can pose a flood risk. Since Tonbridge suffered flooding in 2013/14, the Environment Agency has been working with Tonbridge flood wardens and the borough council to increase flood awareness and resilience.”
A Waitrose spokesperson said the company was not aware of trolleys from its Tonbridge branch going missing within the last year, but encouraged customers to report any incidents.
Ewa Lewszyk, a Sainsbury’s spokesperson, added: “We always want to be a good neighbour and work hard to reduce cases of abandoned trolleys. We do this is through our partnership with Trolleywise, who work with all of our stores to retrieve reported trolleys, as well as security arrangements, such as coin locks and trolley locks.”