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Paper Pallets ­- A Threat For Wood?

22 Dec 2015

Are paper pallets a threat for wood? There is a lot of buzz in the industry at the moment about paper pallets and their pros and cons, especially when compared to traditional wooden pallets. The question has been about whether paper pallets soon completely replace wooden pallets and leave them entirely redundant. Simply put, it is very unlikely, although the topic is well worth examining ­ and there are certainly pros and cons to each material type.

Why Wood Will Always Be Needed

In the ‘pro­wood’ camp, there are various arguments to support the choice of this material type. Firstly, wooden pallet products will always be required for the heavier industrial parts of the market, where goods weigh a tonne or more. Paper simply doesn’t offer this kind of strength or structural integrity. Additionally, wooden varieties can be left outside in bad weather, where paper would disintegrate in the rain. This can make wood the ideal choice for deliveries that are likely to take place over long distances or international locations, taking in different climates and weather conditions.

Wooden varieties are also robust and can be reused many times if they are of high quality and robustly engineered. For the environmental angle, used wooden pallets are a compelling answer to the sustainability of paper and a great way to re­use waste wood products from other industries. This reduces the need for fresh wood and can also cut costs for the manufacturer.

Use of Paper

However, there are also compelling arguments for the benefits of paper pallets when conditions are right. For instances where product deliveries weigh far less than a tonne, a paper alternative could work well, and there are environmental and sustainability issues to consider. It is certainly an attractive proposition to use a paper pallet because it can easily be broken down and recycled after use. Also, paper pallets don’t need to be heat ­treated or fumigated under ISPM 15 requirements, so these pallets are faster to manufacture and distribute.

However, the issue of integrity is a pressing one, especially in countries such as the UK where dampness and difficult weather conditions are typical. These products are made out of laminated paperboard or corrugated fibreboard or even composite paper­based honeycombs. Different designs are used, with some incorporating staples and glue and others simply using flat corrugated paper boards or paper cones. This means that water can easily compromise the pallet’s strength and cause it to crumple and become damaged. This also causes warehouse storage issues.

Because they are thinner, it is also possible to ship more of the paper variety in a load, and they are extremely flexible, meeting international trade regulations by being dust­free and clean. Their disposable nature can mitigate the cost­saving angle, as although they are cheaper to manufacture, they don’t stand up to re­use in the way that wooden alternatives can. However, they can be reinforced with additional plastic wrap products to improve their strength and make them more robust and able to take knocks and bumps.

The Right Product for the Right Job

In conclusion, there are pros and cons to both types of pallet depending on the situation. The trick is to ascertain the best product for the job and choose the best solution from the best types available.

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