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Industry Collaboration on Plastic Crate Theft Results in Indictments

Nov 16, 2009

Five people were indicted in Maryland last Thursday for stealing nearly $400,000 worth of plastic pallets and crates normally used to carry soft drinks, bakery goods and dairy products. The indictments grew out of a collaborative effort by several area businesses and organizations, including Cloverland Dairy and IDFA, to investigate thefts over a seven-month period and provide evidence to state and local law enforcement.

The indictments were announced by Prince George's County State's Attorney Glenn Ivey at a press conference that included representatives from the collaborating companies. The defendants face 17 counts of theft, each carrying a maximum jail sentence of 15 years.

"This is a multi-million-dollar problem," Ivey said, according to a report in the Washington Post. "It undermines the businesses, and the costs are passed along to consumers."

Cloverland Dairy, H&S Bakery and Coca-Cola led the effort to develop a model plan of attack against what is estimated to be a $500-million a year plastic-theft crime wave. IDFA and the American Bakers Association joined the effort earlier this year and will continue to participate.

IDFA estimates that dairy companies alone lose nearly $80 million a year to milk crate theft. The thieves target warehouses, supermarkets, bakeries and other retail outlets that place empty plastic crates outside, usually unattended, for pick up. They steal the crates and sell them to recycling centers for shredding, and the recyclers sell the ground plastic to manufacturers, often to make into more crates.

"We're pleased to see that our collaborative efforts paid off so quickly and effectively," said Clay Detlefsen, IDFA vice president of regulatory affairs and counsel. "We hope this type of grassroots effort will take hold in other parts of the country as well."

IDFA recently launched www.GotMilkCrates.com, a Web site designed to build awareness of the problem. It also provides processors and retailers with proactive measures they can take.

Read more about IDFA's collaborative efforts and the investigation at "Maryland Collaborators Attack Plastic Crate Theft."

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