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How an entire community grew out of old pallets

18 Feb 2015

An astonishing number of wooden pallets are used worldwide for storage and transportation of goods. According to the National Wooden Pallet and Container Association, the figure for the US alone is around 1.5 billion each and every day. The vast majority of these (estimated at around 95%) are made of wood rather than alternatives such as plastic. Around half are only ever intended for a single use, and a significant proportion actually end up in landfill every year. At the moment, wooden pallets account for around half of the use of pine worldwide, and several major companies have pledged to start using plastic or cardboard pallets instead.

A New Lease of Life for Pallets

But websites such as Pinterest have helped to build a whole new industry in reusing these pallets rather than letting them go to waste. People from all walks of life have come up with a vast range of ideas, and some even class themselves as pallet carpenters. It is now possible to buy anything from a bed frame to a kitchen cabinet, all fashioned from used wooden pallets. At any one time, the website Etsy has around 20,000 such items for sale, and of course one major advantage is that the materials used are both plentiful and often free, as well as being environmentally friendly.

More Than a Hobby

Some entrepreneurs have even managed to turn a hobby into a successful business and offer for sale items ranging from wine racks which can sell for £30 to coffee tables which can produce a healthy profit of £150. Social media sites such as Facebook are invaluable in promoting these businesses, and interest is growing all the time. Keen builders can showcase their creations to the world on the website1001pallets.com, where just a quick glance reveals some truly amazing sights, including items as diverse as chicken coops and pallet art. Enthusiasts can sign up to a regular newsletter, and there is even a facility for organisations to donate unwanted pallets so that they can be given a new lease of life, which gives this website a real sense of community.

The pallets need to be dismantled before being thoroughly cleaned and sanded, but pallet carpenters do need to be cautious too, as not all will be safe or suitable for reuse. Older pallets can sometimes be treated with formaldehyde, which can be carcinogenic. If you’re looking for tips on how to proceed with pallet projects of your own, there is plenty of help available online. There are videos available on YouTube which can give a step-by-step guide to construction and also offer advice on how to remove nails and ensure that your materials are safe for use. Pallet upcycling is expected to become more and more popular, which can only be a positive for both the environment and the small businesses which have flourished in this area.

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