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Where do Wooden Pallets sit when it comes to Sustainability?

18 Apr 2016

When it comes to deciding which type of pallets to choose to ship items, many consumers are now taking environmental aspects into consideration. Wooden pallets have long been the traditional choice of pallet, but how do they fare in terms of possessing sustainable credentials?

A Renewable Resource

Wood is a renewable resource, so pallets made from wood make for a sustainable option. In fact, when it comes to the production of pallets, wood uses less energy in the process than any other type of pallet. On top of this, pallets made from wood can be used many times, and if they get damaged or broken are fairly simple to repair. Once a wooden pallet reaches the end of its shelf life, it can then be easily recycled or reprocessed to make mulch, animal bedding or other products that use wood fibres.

Impact on Forests

Wooden pallets rely on trees in order to be produced, so with regards to sustainability questions will, inevitably, be raised about the impact of producing wood pallets on forests. When trees are chopped down, they can be replaced, but this certainly doesn’t happen overnight. It can take up to 40 years before a tree is at a stage where wood can be harvested from it again. When trees are chopped faster than they are being grown, this can have a negative impact on the environment, and some countries could even end up experiencing a shortage of wood.

Forest Management

Certainly, a lot can be done to ensure that products made from wood, such as wood pallets, can be produced sustainably if there is an efficient forest management programme in place. A National Report on Sustainable Forests has shown that in the USA, in the last 50 years, the amount of forest has remained stable, despite an increase in the consumption of wood per acre. This shows that with carefully controlled forest management wood can be a sustainable product.

It is also worth noting that the wood used to make pallets is often a by-product of a tree that has already been chopped down for other purposes, such as manufacturing furniture. Some might argue that the tree would have been chopped down anyway, so pallets are not the sole reason for felling trees. Having said that, if there is less reliance on pallets made from wood overall, it is likely to have an impact on demand for wood required from trees.

Aside from forest management concerns, the positive aspect is that many more shipping and warehouse companies are making a real effort to reuse their pallets, or even rent used ones, so that they can be returned to a central location for repair or further reuse.

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