For decades, organized theft rings have been driving rented trucks to grocery stores and food service establishments, swiping baking baskets and trays that are then ground up and sold to make new plastic products. In Texas, the losses have piled up to more than $25 million in lost equipment and operational disruptions over the past several years. But the American Bakers Association and a host of key bakers in the Lone Star State are fighting back.

In June, Governor Greg Abbott signed the Tray Loss and Prevention Law, H.B. 4584, that provides law enforcement and prosecutors the tools to assist baking companies in fighting the epidemic, noted Kelly Knowles, vice-president of state and political affairs at the A.B.A.

“Unfortunately, we have seen the problem grow every 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,” she said.

The victory provides a major first step to battle tray loss by increasing penalties and fines — and even civil penalties and recovery of prosecution costs — while placing requirements on recyclers to collect information from those seeking to recycle more than five covered containers. That information, along with private investigative tools and reports from route drivers, could be used to build a case against suspected thieves.

The initiative is a key victory for A.B.A.’s newly formed State Affairs Working Group, which targets issues that potentially affect the baking industry as a whole but can be resolved more quickly, effectively and strategically on a state level. Other tray loss measures have been passed in Maryland with more states on the horizon.