Corrugated paper pallets may have been around for decades, but they seem to be having a bit of a moment right now. Looking ahead to 2021 and beyond, we’re seeing several trends that are helping to expand the use of paper pallets throughout many industries.
In the U.S., cardboard pallets were initially embraced by the textile industry, but now they’re being used in a variety of markets to achieve many different goals. Here, we explore some of the key trends that should accelerate in the coming years.
New Uses for Corrugated Pallets
Corrugated pallets have long been proven as an effective alternative to wood pallets for traditional supply chain settings. Today, paper pallets are being embraced by entirely new industries, and they’re being used in some interesting ways.
In sensitive environments
Many products are extremely sensitive to contamination and must be manufactured in clean rooms. These closely controlled environments are typical in industries such as electronics, medical devices, pharmaceuticals, and chemicals. Cardboard pallets are ideal for these settings because they are manufactured to be completely sterile, whereas wood pallets can easily house contaminants such as insects, fungus, and bacteria.
The construction of paper pallets makes them ideal for exports. They are moisture-resistant in typical container environments, which ensures the pallet will stay intact and rigid no matter where it’s shipped. Their light weight reduces overall container weight, and because the pallets are customizable, shippers can optimize the space in each container, which helps minimize shipping costs.
Finally, cardboard pallets are compliant with ISPM 15, a measure created by the International Plant Protection Convention to prevent companies from shipping any potentially contaminated solid wood materials overseas.
For reverse logistics
Cardboard pallets are also proving to be helpful in reducing costs associated with reverse logistics, in which goods move from the end user back to the manufacturer or seller.
Reverse logistics is a huge concern for companies, costing $260 billion a year. That figure is expected to only continue to grow as e-commerce expands and consumers seek out companies that can promise them easy, cost-effective product returns.
Companies are always looking for ways to cut costs around reverse logistics, by limiting returns or reducing the costs associated with each return, for example. This is an area in which corrugated pallets can make a surprisingly large difference.
As mentioned above, pallets constructed of lightweight cardboard can significantly reduce overall shipping costs. Plus, corrugated pallets require attention for proper handling, which can translate to reduced product damage. In fact, one manufacturer was able to reduce product damage by 60 percent when it converted to paper pallets and upgraded its handling procedures.
Meanwhile, paper pallets also support lean practices. Because they are easier to handle than wood pallets and can be customized by shape and weight load, they enable greater efficiency in warehouses and during shipping. Plus, when pallets are customized to suit the space requirements of specific products, they provide better protection for the products and ensure a more efficient delivery process.
As many companies adopt cardboard pallets for new uses, some businesses are drawn to the products to support their sustainability initiatives.
Every year, more companies, both in the U.S. and abroad, are embracing a variety of sustainability practices. Today, 86 percent of businesses see environmental efforts as a necessary step toward staying financially competitive, and 82 percent also believe embracing sustainability benefits their corporate image.
For a growing number of companies, sustainability programs now include switching from wood to corrugated paper pallets. Paper-based pallets help simplify the recycling process, because they are 100 percent recyclable. (Compare this to wood pallets, which must first be processed to remove nails, staples, and other materials.) In fact, corrugated paper pallets can be baled right alongside other recyclable materials.
Cardboard pallets also reduce carbon emissions thanks to their lighter weight. And they are fully biodegradable, which is another compelling reason to include them in a sustainability program.
Look to the Future
As cardboard pallets become increasingly popular across a variety of industries, now is a good time to consider whether they would fit into your company’s own business model. These lightweight, customizable pallets are highly functional and, as you can see, offer a range of potential benefits. Consider how your business could cut costs or improve efficiency by moving from wood to cardboard pallets, and start to reap the benefits today.