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Wooden Pallets: Can They Help Your Business Become More Sustainable & Efficient

09 Jul 2019

Supply chains are becoming increasingly more complex. This is partly due to the expansion of global markets, product storage keeping units, variety of shipping and distribution methods and rising customer expectations.

And as this happens companies are attempting to improve supply chain efficiency and sustainability.

To do this companies should evaluate their shipping and distribution operations.

Pallets are the most common unit load platform for handling and storing goods. As such they are an integral component of company operations. And because they are used in large quantities the environmental impacts associated with the use of a single pallet is greatly magnified.

Here we discover the environmental impact of a wooden pallet and strategies to implement negate this.

We’ll also learn how technology is changing the wooden pallet industry.

 

CONTENTS

Chapter One: The Challenges Facing The Wooden Pallet Industry

Chapter Two: What Is The Environmental Impact Of Wooden Pallets?

Chapter three: How Can You Make Your Wooden Pallets More Sustainable?

Chapter four: How Recyclable Are Wooden Pallets?

Chapter five: Is Wood More Sustainable Than Plastic?

Chapter six: How Technology Is Changing The Wooden Pallet Industry?

Chapter seven: Conclusion

 

Chapter One: The Challenges Facing The Wooden Pallet Industry

There are a number of upcoming challenges facing the wooden pallet industry. One such challenge is the change to global and national policy which is promoting the importance of a move towards sustainability.

In fact the Government has committed to reducing emissions and improving sustainability by the year 2050.

Another challenge for the industry is in relation to the growth of certain sectors. Specifically retail and pharmaceutical. These sectors require very specific characteristics for their pallets which can be challenging.

The price of lumber is also rising which is obviously a problem for wooden pallets. This pushes up costs which invariable have to be covered or moved onto the customer who may be unwilling to pay.

One of the big issues facing the wooden pallet industry is sustainability. With gonvermentments worldwide cracking down on sustainability the wooden pallet industry is under pressure to become more environmental.

For the wooden pallet industry to thrive companies need to understand the environmental impact of wooden pallets and how they can improve their use within their organisation.

Chapter Two: What Is The Environmental Impact Of Wooden Pallets?

To move on, first we need to understand how exactly wooden pallets impact the environment and what is currently in place to reduce this effect on the environment.

First up we have the environmental impact of actually producing pallets. These are the issues caused by the literal production of the pallets and not associating with the logistics of distribution and freight.

Obviously wooden pallets are made from wood. That goes without saying. But wait a minute?

Where does this wood come from?

You might think that companies are out their chopping down forests to make their pallets. Possibly even causing deforestation. However this couldn’t be further away from the truth!

Wooden pallets are made from sustainable forests which are accredited by environmental bodies. Other pallets may be made from leftover wood from construction projects of houses and furniture.

You also might think that once a pallet is damaged and no longer fit for use it is simply discarded as broken. However generally speaking damaged wooden pallets will be recycled into recondition pallets or other material.

The UK is committed to recycling as many wooden products as possible and it is currently thought that only 5% of all wooden pallets end up in landfills.

If a pallet is passed recycling it can always be chipped or mulched to be reused a wood based fuel.

Chapter Three: How Can You Make Your Wooden Pallets More Sustainable?

You may also be wondering about how you could make the wooden pallets you already have last longer.

So here are some general care tips to help your wooden pallets last longer and therefore help you be more sustainable.

Consider using more fasteners. Studies have shown that a 5 to 6 percent increase in the number of fasteners used will usually result in a 56 percent improvement in general pallet durability.

You should also consider using pallet end protectors such as split-inhibitors on the leading edge of the deckboard. This has been proven to increase durability by 48 percent.

A few other tips include using dense hardwood pallets instead of medium density hardwood pallets. Dense hardwood pallets are much more durable than medium density ones so will help them last longer and ultimately be more sustainable.

Carrying along the same vein if you want to see greater improvements in durability consider using hardwood instead of Douglas Fir. This will improve durability by a staggering 165 percent.

You could also consider using air dried material instead of green. Air dried material delivers a 43 percent improvement over green material.

Heat treatment especially to ISM15 standards is another great way of increasing the durability and therefore sustainability of your pallets. This is important when shipping abroad but also good for the overall strength and longevity of wooden pallets.

Chapter Four: How Recyclable Are Wooden Pallets?

As well as improving the general durability of wooden pallets to increase sustainability here are some ways in which wooden pallets can be recycled.

In fact pallet recycling has quickly become a burgeoning segment of the wooden pallet industry. With perceptions changing in the last few decades with regards to recycling there has been a shift in allowing people access to unusable wooden pallets which can be used in a variety of different ways for home projects.

There are a whole host of ideas for recycling and repurposing wooden pallets. Read our blog posts on what can be done for some inspiration.

As well as recycling old wooden pallets into home craft projects more often than not they can be used as second hand or used wooden pallets.

Sometimes these pallets will need to be refurbished however they can provide a great low cost alternative to buying new wooden pallets.

If you don’t require any unique pallets then more often than not you will be able to find a used version for sale at a much cheaper price. This is obviously great for your bottom line but also the environment and improving sustainability.

If you have any old pallets that you’re unsure can be used, then get in touch with us and we’ll be happy to advise. Alternatively we can also refurbish them for you or buy them off you.

Chapter Five: Is Wood More Sustainable Than Plastic?

As you might expect its very common in the pallet industry to compare wooden and plastic pallets.

After all these are the two main options when purchasing pallets. Though both wooden and plastic pallets have their own set of advantages. In this guide we’ll discuss some of the pros of using wooden pallets. Though you should consider your industry and requirements before selecting any kind of pallet.

Wooden pallets are great because they are usually cheaper than plastic alternatives. There is also an argument that they’re better for the environment. Though they’re made of wood, they are usually produced from sustainable forests or discarded construction resources.

Whilst wooden pallets aren’t as strong and durable as plastic pallets with a little refurbishment they can often be put back into circulation and sold as used or second hand wooden pallets.

As wooden pallets are such a big part of the logistics and shipping industries, they can always be found with ease with many suppliers offering next day delivery of pallets.

Whilst we’re discussing sustainability and the impact of resources on the environment we should also consider that wooden pallets are usually biodegradable.

Chapter Six: How Technology Is Changing The Wooden Pallet Industry?

You may consider a wooden pallet a humble necessity used in the logistics industry. However the industry itself is starting to embrace technology to bring pallets into the 21st Century.

Advancements in technology have made wooden pallet delivers quicker, easier and more efficient. Using GPS technology ensures that drivers can pick up and deliver goods with pin point directions. This ultimately reduces travel costs as delivery always takes the best route.

As with any industry quick, clear and efficient communication is vital. Using modern technology communication has never been better. Using modern communication methods companies can communicate effortlessly between customers and delivery drivers. Ultimately improving customer satisfaction and improving service quality.

There is also emerging technology which is starting to be used in the pallet industry. This technology will help to track individual pallets and shipments.

A different approach to new technology is the materials used to create the pallets. There is a new type of pallet known as the presswood pallet which is quickly becoming more popular.

We recently discussed all things related to presswood pallets in this guide here.

However in brief presswood pallets are a great new option as they are stackable and more environmentally friendly when compared with traditional pallets. They’re well worth checking out if they meet your requirements.

Chapter Seven: Conclusion

Hopefully by now you have a clear understanding of the impact of wooden pallets on the environment but also how this is being combatted.

Despite what you might think wooden pallets are a good decision towards being more sustainable. With pallet wood sourced from sustainable forests or left overs from construction they’re a clever way of using unwanted resources.

They can also be refurbished and recycled easily. Be that into home craft projects or as second hand or used wooden pallets.

You should also understand how you can go about extending the life of your pallets through simple maintenance.

We’ve also touched upon how technology is influencing and improving the industry as a whole.

Ultimately you should have a good idea how you can be sustainable whilst using wooden pallets as part of your distribution and logistics network.

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