Two Warburtons employees are due to be sentenced on May 23, after being found guilty in Preston Crown Court of stealing at least 60 lorry loads of bread baskets and recycling them for cash.
Warburtons’ delivery driver Paul Rogers and his boss Robert Cooper recycled £500,000 of stolen bread baskets, Preston Crown Court heard in February.
The two men are accused of being in league with the owner of recycling company PM Plastics Paul Matthews. Matthews, aged 46, of, Darwen, Lancashire, had already pleaded guilty to conspiracy to steal.
Warburtons started recycling baskets at PM Plastics’ Darwen, Lancashire, plant in November 2010.
But after the new ‘universal basket’ was introduced by supplier Bakers Basco, it noticed that 90,000 trays were unaccounted for.
After an anonymous tip-off, Bakers Basco recovery investigator Craig Hodges visited the site on March 19, 2012, saw the baskets and witnessed some being chipped for recycling.
Police arrested Matthews, Cooper, 61, of Bolton, and Rogers, 34, of Rochdale, Greater Manchester.
Prosecuting, Nicholas Courtney said: “The precise number of baskets — and associated dollies — stolen during the conspiracy is impossible to calculate.
“After the theft was discovered, Bakers Basco ordered 150,000 new baskets and 4,000 dollies to replenish their stock.
“The replacement cost for this came to £562,700. However Warburtons negotiated a settlement of £220,000.”
Bakers Basco said it was unable to comment while the case was in progress.