New rules aim to stop theft of plastic pallets

Flats often left unguarded at stores, traded in for cash at recycling centers
2011-06-01T00:00:00Z New rules aim to stop theft of plastic palletsBy Howard Fischer Capitol Media Services Arizona Daily Star

A new state law taking effect this summer is designed to help track down people who steal plastic pallets - the type of delivery trays often left unattended behind stores.

Beginning July 20, there will be new Arizona restrictions on any firm in the business of recycling, shredding, reselling or destroying plastic pallets.

If they buy more than five at any one time, and those items have a company logo, the buyers will have to get identification from the sellers. That includes not only a name and phone number but also the seller's driver's license or other ID as well as the license-plate number of the vehicle used to deliver the items.

Companies must keep the records on hand for a year and be open during regular business hours so police can examine the paperwork.

The idea is to lead police back to thieves who are selling the items in the first place, said lobbyist Mike Gardner.

The theft problem has gotten so bad, Gardner estimates Arizona firms are losing about $3 million a year on those pallets, which have cash value at recycling centers.

It's already illegal for anyone to possess such a pallet in Arizona.

John Kalil, vice president of the Tucson bottling company that bears his family name, said stores tend to leave these pallets outside, waiting to be retrieved.

"At night, people go out and scavenge and sell them," he said. "If you're unemployed, lack cash, have a pickup truck, you're in business. We need something to shut them down."

Kalil figures his firm alone spends $700,000 a year replacing pallets that disappear.

The new law provides similar requirements for anyone purchasing wooden pallets. But the cutoff for having to get identification is at 10. There also is nothing requiring these items be stamped with name of the company that owns it.

The legislation drew a number of questions and some opposition.

Rep. Jim Weiers, R-Phoenix, said he did not understand why, if it is illegal to possess those plastic pallets in the first place, recyclers should be allowed to buy them at all.

Part of the reason, Gardner said, is that at some point those plastic pallets do outlive their useful life and are recycled by the original companies.

Not everyone was convinced.

"This is kind of a 'nanny' bill to me," said Rep. John Fillmore, R-Apache Junction.

Fillmore, who owns a chain of retail stores selling fireplaces and evaporative coolers, said the items often are delivered to him on wooden pallets, and that he'll sometimes give away or sell the pallets.

Fillmore said he believes the penalties in the new law - up to $30,000 in some cases - are not merited.

He was not persuaded to vote for the measure despite assurance by Rep. Bob Robson, R-Chandler, that anyone selling the pallets need not prove ownership but only provide identification.

Others were more enthusiastic supporters of the idea. Sen. Al Melvin, R-Tucson, said the state has lost more than 300,000 jobs.

"The first order of business is to protect those businesses that operate here now," Melvin said.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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