Breaking the Myths of Corrugated Paper Pallets Series:
Part 1 - Strength
Corrugated paper pallets are a great alternative to wooden pallets for many reasons. These types of pallets are much lighter weight, totally recyclable along with your cardboard boxes, and can be customized thousands of ways to fit your business’ individual needs.
Just like cardboard boxes have replaced wooden crates, corrugated paper pallets are now competitive to the first rate hardwood pallets. At Conitex-Sonoco, we manufacture and distribute paper pallets, not pallets made from timber, and we are often asked about the difference in quality, standard pallet size, and effectiveness in handling the precious cargo our clients transport.
Specifically, we are asked about the strength of paper pallets:
“How can cardboard hold the same weight as wooden pallets?”
“Wouldn’t paper pallets buckle under the weight when it’s on my forklift or pallet jack?”
“I mean it’s paper, it’s weak. Why should I trust it?”
We’re going to be honest with you. If you hold out a single piece of cardboard and a piece of wood, there is no competition to the wood’s strength. However, good engineering is really about finding a way to make a given quantity of materials perform a certain function. Engineers continue to take corrugated paper and create resilient pallets of different shapes and sizes that can handle whatever you want to carry.
Think of a pallet as a really small bridge. You're using a pallet to hold something up without it crashing to the ground.
Let’s start with some facts about paper pallets.
- 94 percent of transported goods are moved using pallets - according to the National Wood Pallet and Container Association - with billions of pallets in circulation.
- Paper pallets are very resilient for their relative cost and weight.
- They are mostly made from recycled fiber content.
- Like cardboard boxes, paper pallets and are easily 100 percent recyclable.
- Paper pallets are OSHA compliant because they are lightweight, do not use nails or staples as fasteners, and never splinter.
- Each paper pallet weighs between 13 and 16 lbs. That’s about one-third of the weight of a wooden pallet.
How much can cardboard pallets hold?
Paper pallets can support a load up to 10,000 lbs (about 4536 kg). For comparison, a standard wooden pallet can typically hold about 4,600 lbs (about 2087 kg).
Let’s put that in perspective. By saying a paper pallet can hold up to 10,000 pounds, we are also saying 15 lbs of paper can support:
- 2 Rhinoceroses (weighing in at 4,600 lbs a piece)
- 10 Grand Pianos (weighing in at 990 lbs a piece)
- 303 Bushels of Dried Peanuts
How can paper pallets hold so much weight?
Made with Corrugated Paper
What is corrugated paper? Simply, corrugated paper is a thick paperboard used for packaging materials. It is made of two to three layers of thick paper that are grooved and ridged in an alternating pattern to create a more rigid and strong paper material.
Corrugated paper is stronger along one axis than another (just like wood). Based on this, engineers can save material and weight by making different parts support each other. Just like steel cables are purpose-built to live under tension, so corrugated can be designed for what it does best.
Paper Pallet Design
A large part of the strength of a cardboard pallet lies in its design. Paper pallet runners liken to those of wooden pallets and run lengthwise across the pallet.
For example, paper pallets that have specialized cylindrical cores housed in each runner depend on this design to support weight across the entire pallet.
Engineers working on your application-specific design take into consideration pallet size and the location of the load-bearing points of contact with the pallet (if the product is not equally distributed) and provide reinforcement through their core, or other load-bearing technology.
Because they are custom designed, they can be great for unequal weight distribution on the pallet and can be two-way or four-way entry to be conveyor and forklift friendly. It is also possible to make pallets with or without a bottom sheet. For conveyors (and other applications), the bottom sheet is great. However, removing it can create savings and allow more custom applications. Not to mention that in the absence of a bottom sheet, pallets can be nested for shipment, allowing almost twice as many per truckload.
As paper pallets continue to become more and more widely used, you will see even more engineering marvels in the use of paper materials for the packaging and transporting industries.
If you have any questions about paper pallets, and our specialty in-house corrugated pallets brand, LoadRunner, let us know!