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California businesses plagued by plastic thieves

November 26, 2012 |  8:20 am

A Coca-Cola employee maneuvers a lift filled with stolen plastic pallets recovered by the Sheriff's Department in 2011. The spike in fuel prices has led to higher plastics prices and an escalation in thefts. Credit: Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times

California businesses are being plagued by plastic thieves, who steal plastic pallets, trays and crates in order to sell them to recyclers. 

Some of the stolen contraband may be shipped to factories in Asia. But authorities say a growing percentage of it is processed by recycling operations in Southern California, some of which rely on government contracts. The prices plastic recyclers pay vary, but lately they have hovered around 15 cents a pound for non-ground plastic, industry officials say.

Last year, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department formed a five-person Industrial Plastics Task Force, which is believed to be the only such team in the nation. It is wholly funded by the City of Industry, which is home to many of the affected businesses.

In the last year, the task force has turned over 47 criminal cases to prosecutors. More than 50 people have been charged with possessing stolen property, and most have pleaded guilty. The team has recovered more than $6 million in stolen plastic.

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--Jessica Garrison

Photo: A Coca-Cola employee maneuvers a lift filled with stolen plastic pallets recovered by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department in 2011. The spike in fuel prices has led to higher plastics prices and an escalation in thefts. Credit: Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times

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