Two Warburtons employees have been jailed for stealing more than £560,000-worth of bread baskets and selling them on for recycling.

Warburtons’ delivery driver Paul Rogers and his boss, team manager Robert Cooper, recycled 230 tonnes of £500-a-tonne stolen bread baskets, Preston Crown Court heard in February. Cooper, of Winchester Way, Breightmet, stole at least 60 lorry-loads of the baskets with Matthews, aged 46, of Jubilee Close, Darwen, and sold them to PM Plastics in Sudellside Street, Darwen.

Cooper received four years, Rogers three-and-a-half and recycling boss Paul Matthews was also jailed for three years.

The trio devised the plan after Warburtons started recycling its bread baskets there in November 2010 and a new universal basket had been introduced by supplier Bakers Basco, a consortium of leading bakers.

After an anonymous tip-off, Bakers Basco recovery investigator Craig Hodges visited the site, saw the baskets and witnessed some being chipped for recycling. The three were later arrested.

The operation was said to have netted more than £115,000 and the three men now face a proceeds of crime hearing, according to The Bolton News.