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Wooden Pallet Industry Shares Insights

10 Mar 2015

Biomass energy is still considered an emerging giant by the general public, as well as by many in the pallet industry. However, the biomass industry has in fact been growing steadily for a number of years. This lack of awareness about biomass energy, and in particular wood pellets, was recently the subject of an article published in National Geographic, ‘The Energy Boom You Haven’t Heard About: Wood Pellets’.

Opportunities Vs Threats

In short, the biomass industry is increasing in popularity. The resulting opportunities or threats this activity places upon the pallet industry is still under investigation. To date a small group of companies within the wooden pallet industry have branched out into producing wood pellets. At the same time, others have increased supply to the boiler fuel market.

European operators are struggling under price increases, lumbar shortages and job losses which have arisen as a consequence of governments subsidising wood pellets.

Conversely, the North American biomass industry appears to be proving more of an opportunity rather than a threat. Sales to the biomass market is not a new concept to the wooden pallet industry in North America. Volume reduction of materials for transportation before landfill was one of the key motivations behind the proposition for grinding of waste wood, as well as the fact that many landfills were no longer happy to accept solid wood waste. Location continues to be a key factor in the demand of waste wood fibres.

Clean Vs Recycled

Other markets for fibre include playground covers, animal bedding and landscaping mulch. Operations have also been built to facilitate wood fibre ‘upcycling’ from pre and post-consumer fibre and waste wood.

Best practices are an important consideration and should be shared liberally between organisations in order to maximise the beneficial effect on sustainability and the environment. Quality control and the nature of the local market place have a strong impact upon the demand for ‘clean’ or ‘recycled’ wood, but undertaking a protocol of best practice can go some way towards ensuring chips are manufactured to a usable standard, according to requirement. For example, in the production of material for use in children’s playgrounds there is a need to adhere to different safety and quality standards than other non-contact areas.

The aim of working together in this way is to enable both the pallet industry and the pellet industry to benefit mutually from measures which also improve environmental sustainability of operations and address issues with transportation and changes to landfill policies. However, European markets may struggle due to variations in quality testing requirements. Pellet colour, size and bagging regulations may also be a consideration. Producers must therefore be prepared and able to adapt operations in line with the needs of the target market and depending upon location.

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