Pallet and Container Theft – a Policy Problem

I just recently received a note from a recycling friend who expressed concern that our ongoing coverage of police actions against recyclers in California and elsewhere may be sending pallet and crate owners the wrong message – that they don’t really need to invest in managing their pallets and reusable packaging. Instead, they can just rely on law enforcement paid for by the general public. As a result, he feels that there is more packaging ending up in the recycling stream, and ultimately complicating business and increasing risk for legitimate recyclers.

To be clear, I believe that pallet and container thieves should be prosecuted, as should the buyers of the stolen packaging. I am on record, however, as not being in support of public subsidization of incompetent reusables management through policing.

Having said that, I follow below with more coverage on plastic pallet and container theft in California. Of note are comments from Joseph Harrington, Ph.D, who has has provided us with perspective in previous coverage on container theft, and who has some welcome insights on reusable packaging management.

Can anything stop the latest wave in criminal recycling?

From plastic bottles to aluminum cans, from cardboard to glass, recycling is king in California. But there’s a disturbing criminal side to the recycling industry that is leaving a black mark.

The theft of copper wires torn from Little League fields, lampposts and power stations and redeemed for cash at recycling centers has become a well-known criminal enterprise since the start of the recession.

But more recently, thieves are targeting grocery store docks and stealing plastic pallets. Such high-density plastic pallets – used to transport soda, bread, milk and other products – are being sold to black market grinders and bailers, who ship them overseas in bags of plastic pellets where they are melted down and made into toys or other consumer products, according to sheriff’s deputies and industry sources.


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