Bakers welcome tougher penalties for plastic bread tray theft

By Caroline Scott-Thomas

- Last updated on GMT

The trays are used to distribute packaged sliced bread
The trays are used to distribute packaged sliced bread
The American Bakers Association (ABA) has welcomed a Maryland bill that will increase the penalties for theft of plastic bread trays – a criminal act that bakers say costs at least $75m a year.

The bill has unanimously been approved in Maryland’s House of Delegates and the state Senate, and the ABA is hailing it as a precedent-setting bill that could see stricter penalties for plastic tray theft rolled out to other states.

In his testimony before Maryland lawmakers last month, ABA’s president and CEO Robb MacKie said there had been a “sudden surge in the loss of plastic delivery and storage containers, in some cases as high as 60% loss in major metro areas, including those in Maryland.

“This has resulted in excess of $100 million of lost equipment and countless operational disruptions over the past few years.”

MacKie – along with vice president of sales and marketing at H&B Bakery JR Paterakis – has led a campaign to pass the legislation, H.B. 1088, which was introduced by Delegates Doyle Niemann (D-PG) and Michael Vaughn (D-PG). It awaits the Governor's signature before passing into law.

The trays are worth about $8-$9 each. MacKie claims that an average industrial baker could spend about $500,000 a year on replacement trays, and the ultimate cost would be passed along to consumers.

It is thought that the trays are either being used by other, smaller bakeries, or are being exchanged for cash before being recycled into resin pellets.

“This bakery tray theft goes beyond individuals’ first reaction: that college students use them in their dorm rooms,”​ MacKie said in his testimony.

“This issue includes street vendors taking trays from stores and using them as carrying trays outside sporting events. This issue also includes organized retail crime rings stealing truckloads of the pricey high-density plastic resin trays, taking them into warehouses where they are put through grinders and then melting those chips into molds where they are made into other items. At the end of the day, these trays are stolen items, and that loss affects wholesale baking companies and ultimately consumers.”

Under the new legislation, individuals found guilty of organized theft of plastic bread trays could face up to a year in prison and a $1,000 fine for a first offence, and up to three years imprisonment and a fine of up to $2,500 for subsequent violations.

H&B Bakery’s JR Paterakis hired a private investigator to track plastic trays being stolen from his company, resulting in the recovery of 150 trays and a criminal investigation.

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