Current law covers some types of trays, but this bill would broaden the definition to include all returnable containers, including bread trays and other reusable receptacles used by wholesalers and manufacturers.
The legislation will “help law enforcement do their job, protect personal property, frustrate the organized crime rings that are grinding up these containers, and prevent them from profiting from selling the material,” said Jim Rood, loss prevention consultant at Georgia-based Flowers Foods, who testified in support of the bill at the initial hearing on April 17.
Added Dan Stone, Flower Foods’ senior VP of supply chain logistics, “The theft of plastic delivery containers is as old as the invention of the reusable containers themselves. Unfortunately, we have seen the problem grow ever year as the loss of plastic delivery and storage containers can reach as high as 60% in major metropolitan areas, including those in Texas like Houston and El Paso.”
Flowers is the second largest baker in the US, parent to brands such as Nature’s Own, Wonder and Dave’s Killer Bread.
A fix for an ongoing problem
The bill would reinforce a Texas Retailers Association initiative called STOPP, or Stop Theft of Plastics Products. Despite the extra attention to theft of plastic baking or beverage trays, the threat remains, according to the ABA, which successfully led similar efforts in Maryland and Ohio.
ABA president and CEO Robb MacKie told BakeryandSnacks that ‘almost every single baker’ endures theft of its reusable plastics. Typically, it originates in illegal recycling operations, he said, which regrind the plastic into pellets then sold overseas. In some cases, those pellets land in the facilities of other bakers and food distributors ‘to avoid investing in their own materials.’
“While there are, of course, hot spots in some areas of the country – particularly denser areas with more recycling infrastructure and bread distributors – the issue is truly nationwide,” he said.
Impact of Texas baking industry
- Nearly 64,000 jobs, plus 116,000 indirect jobs
- More than $3.7bn in wages
- $4.42bn in tax revenues
- $12.6bn economic impact
- 2.23% of state GDP from bakers, 2.28% of federal GDP in 2016
A decade ago, ABA estimated the baking industry lost up to $100m annually in replacement costs related to tray loss. While normal wear-and-tear plays a role in those losses, said MacKie, theft is a relevant factor.
“Plastic trays are more sanitary, easy to clean and sustainable – preventing bakers from dealing with many of the issues often associated with distributing using cardboard or other containers,” he added.
“By passing these bills, we can hopefully reduce the amount our manufacturers have been investing as a result of stolen trays, and redirect that towards new equipment, business expansion and other investments that grow our industry.”
In the Texas House, the Environmental Regulations Committee unanimously approved the bill in late April; the Local and Consent Committee and then the full house affirmed it on May 3.
Representative Cole Hefner, a Republican who sponsored the bill, said, "Texas bakers have been plagued by the theft of bakery trays and HB 4584 utilizes all angles of enforcement to solidify the theft of bakers’ private property as a criminal offense."
The state senate must approve the bill before the end of the legislature’s session on May 27.