Aldi market's simple quarter-deposit system keeps lots and nearby neighborhoods cart free.

This week, plans to round up abandoned shopping carts, part of a citywide quality-of-life improvement program, are underway.

According to a June 9 memorandum to the city’s Quality of Life Committee, the test program began yesterday to corral the errant carts that plague Dallas neighborhoods, which proponents of the abandoned-shopping-cart cleanup plan say attract more litter (they become “garbage magnets”, Angelina Avalos of the Vickery Meadow Improvement District has told the city council). City crews — along with some volunteers — will continue the cleanup throughout the week.

The cart conundrum is prolific in poorer neighborhoods, where people do not have cars and therefore frequently steal carts (yes, merchants confirm this constitutes theft) as a means to get the groceries home.

The pilot cleanup program this week will focus on five Dallas neighborhoods (click on map at the left for a larger view) including the 500 block of Maple, Polk/Camp Wisdom Road, Spring Valley/Coit, the Vickery Meadow area, and Lancaster/Keist.

The plan, pushed by leaders of the Vickery Meadow Improvement District and the Apartment Association of Greater Dallas, places due responsibility on merchants for keeping track of carts, asking them to “demonstrate strategies that will keep carts on their property and not abandoned in neighborhoods”.

Aldi, a grocery store often set in such pedestrian neighborhoods, is exemplary when it comes to controlling its cart inventory. The system is simple — put a quarter in to get a cart. Get your quarter back when you return the cart. (I also learned the hard way, one day when I parked on the south end of the lot at the Forest-Audelia store, that the carts seize up if you take it past a certain point in the parking lot).

The worst: Wal Mart. The few times I’ve been forced to visit the Wal Mart at Forest-Abrams, I have passed on several available parking spaces due to carts in the spot, and the Wal Mart carts can be seen in the lots of nearby apartments, extended-living hotels and beauty supply stores. Fiesta (though I adore its produce section) is also awful with the carts.

While I admire the effort here, I think the majority of the onus should be placed on the businesses — if a barebones outfit like Aldi can figure out how to cure the shopping cart chaos, surely Wal Mart and Super Target can do the same.