Plastic beats wire in checkout queue

New plastic trolleys will not interfere with radio tag scans which are set to replace barcodes – and checkout staff

A shopping trolley made from plastic could cut out time spent at the checkout and open the way for more colourful, interesting designs in the nation’s supermarket aisles.

Designed by the UK-based Industrial Design Consultancy for Australian concept developer Carte 2000, the trolley is made from Zytel, a glass-reinforced nylon developed by Du Pont.

This makes it compatible with checkout scanners which can add up a shopping bill while the goods are still in the trolley or basket. The technology makes use of radio frequency tags instead of traditional barcodes.

Metal trolleys interfere with the scanning mechanism. Using plastic removes this problem, according to John Stimpson, marketing manager at IDC.

`Every item gets scanned and charged to your account – and if you don’t take the trolley back then you’ve paid for that as well,’ he says.

The new trolley has other advantages. It is lighter, which makes it easier to steer and stop. The plastic has been moulded into a smooth, continuous shell, making it easier to wipe clean and less likely to injure fellow shoppers.

Thin plastic walls allow more trolleys to be stacked in the same amount of space – each trolley added to a stack takes up 110mm, compared to 240mm with more conventional trolleys.

Zytel also comes in different colours, which makes it possible to customise trolleys for specific retailers, and the whole body is completely recyclable, barring the metal wheels.

Plastic trolleys have been tried before, but they have either been copies of metal trolleys without an additional design element, or made use of cheaper materials which did not have the rigidity of Zytel.

To create a structure which would hold its shape, IDC designed it in just two parts – the chassis and the basket.

The use of gas-assisted injection-moulding allowed a lighter structure without metal inserts. Stimpson says the chassis is one of the largest plastic parts ever to be produced by this method.

Although the trolley can be found in some branches of Marks & Spencer, it is still in development, the next objective being all-plastic wheels. After that, its introduction will depend on the social acceptablity of automatic checkouts.

As Stimpson says: `There is an employment issue with people working on the checkouts. It’s not going to happen overnight.’

Copyright: Centaur Communications Ltd. and licensors