Public help sought in cleaning up shopping carts littering Kona streets

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Nearly two miles away from the store, an empty Walmart shopping cart is abandoned along Kuakini Highway near Pottery Terrace. In the heart of Kailua Village, the carts, sometimes loaded with clothes or trash, are strewn about from Ali‘i Drive to Henry Street and everywhere in between.

  • Shopping cart found abandoned along the shoreline of Ali‘i Drive. (Photo courtesy: Ross Wilson)
  • Shopping cart being picked up in Kailua Village. (Photo courtesy: Ross Wilson)
  • Shopping carts found on the sidewalk by Target in Kona. (Photo courtesy: Ross Wilson)
  • Shopping cart found abandoned at Kailua Pier. (Photo courtesy: Ross Wilson)

“It’s a visual blight,” said Ross Wilson, executive director of the Kailua Village Business Improvement District.

Over the past few years, the organization has recovered the carts and returned them to the local merchants, KTA, Target, Walmart, Safeway, Long’s Drugstore and in rare cases, Costco. In 2023, Wilson said volunteers returned 503 wagons to the businesses.

Now, the district has decided to involve the merchants as well as the community in their effort to clean up the village.

In the past month, Wilson said, they’ve set up a “one-stop shop” where the public can email photos of abandoned carts and information on their location, which is forwarded to the business. Those companies will then pick up the wagons. Photos can be sent to:


“Shopping carts are like graffiti,” Wilson said. “Block by block we’ll go and clean it up. But if you let the graffiti stay it grows. Taking them off the streets shows that we care.”

Laurie Mandell of Kailua-Kona submitted a photo of two abandoned empty carts, in the bushes by Pottery Terrace, to the new email on Jan. 18. On Sunday, she submitted a second photo of a wagon full of clothes by Coconut Grove on Ali‘i Drive.

Mandell thinks the district’s plan is nice as she wants Kona cleaner. She said: “I don’t like to see them sitting there. It’s hurting the ‘aina.”

While Mandell knows the carts are sometimes used by those who are houseless, she sees it as a form of stealing, which has been going on for a while. Seven years ago, while employed at Long’s Drug Store in the Lanihau Center off Palani Road, carts would go missing regularly, costing about $200 each to replace.


KTA, also located on Palani Road, faces the same issue despite having a locking-wheel mechanism to keep carts in the store’s parking lot.

Toby Taniguchi, president of KTA, said thieves will go as far as to remove the wheel and replace it with a freewheel to get it off the property. He said they try to grab the stolen carts when they know about them.

Taniguchi said the district’s efforts to return the wagons to retailers have been helpful. And with their new plan of involving the merchants and the public, he said it’s a helpful part of the solution.

There are about 125 wagons at KTA. Taniguchi wasn’t sure how many carts they had to replace last year because of theft.


If a few go missing, Taniguchi said the store can’t order just five at a time. They have to order in bulk. This past October, KTA received 460 carts that were spread out among the five grocery store locations.

KTA carts seen on the streets can be reported to

Tiffany DeMasters
Tiffany DeMasters is a full-time reporter for Pacific Media Group. Tiffany worked as the cops and courts reporter for West Hawaii Today from 2017 to 2019. She also contributed stories to Ke Ola Magazine and Honolulu Civil Beat.

Tiffany can be reached at
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