For years, the theft of milk crates has been a pervasive and costly problem for the dairy industry. In 2009, dairy companies surveyed said they lost an estimated $80 million on milk crates annually. To update this information, IDFA is surveying members that use milk crates about current losses and loss-prevention methods. The results will help IDFA demonstrate the impact of milk crate theft on the dairy industry to law enforcement and produce a best-practices guide to help the industry prevent future losses.

“It’s important that we have updated information to combat these losses in our industry and inform our advocacy strategy on preventing crate loss,” said Emily Lyons, IDFA director of regulatory affairs. “We’d like to know how severe the loss is to your company, if you have seen increases or decreases in theft and if there are certain areas of your supply chain that are the hardest hit.”

Milk crate losses occur in many ways, but is largely done through organized crime in the United States. Thieves target warehouses, supermarkets, bakeries and other retail outlets that place empty plastic crates outside and take them to illegally set-up recycling centers for shredding. The recyclers then sell the ground plastic to manufacturers, often to make into more crates. A fraction of stolen milk crates is also taken for personal use, such as use in homes for storage or on bikes for baskets.

In 2009, the dairy industry lost nearly 20 million milk crates, but IDFA collaborated with members and other organizations to share information with investigators that led to arrests. As a result, five people in Maryland were indicted for stealing nearly $400,000 worth of plastic pallets and crates.  

IDFA encourages companies that use milk crates to complete the survey by Sept. 30, 2017.

Information or data provided to IDFA will be treated confidentially. Information and data will also be consolidated and blinded to not identify respondents’ company or brand.

Click here to complete the survey.

For more information, contact Lyons at