Wooden pallets may be the current go-to for many industries, but do they truly stack up to the competition?
Pallets are flat structures that help stabilize and support goods through storage and freight processes. They need to be hardy enough to interact with forklifts, and they need to be slim enough to fit inside a warehouse without wasting too much space.
Traditionally, pallets have been made of wood. Wooden pallets provide a lot of benefits—but they can also have their downsides.
For example, wooden pallets are heavy, bulky, and harder to recycle than you might imagine. Further, wooden pallets aren’t actually that safe. Wooden pallets often have splinters and protruding nails. They’re hygroscopic, which means they take on weight and become weaker when wet, and are susceptible to both mold and fungi development.
We don’t know about you, but all of these real-life concerns surrounding wooden pallets are making us curious: When looking for recyclable pallets, can a wooden pallet truly do the job? Or is there another option that could outperform traditional pallets?
Are wooden pallets recyclable pallets? Let’s find out.
While wooden pallets are often presented as a savvy, sustainable option, the truth may be a little more nuanced than that. Here’s the lowdown on wooden pallet reuse and recycling.
Before the vast majority of wooden pallets can simply be used again, they will require a quick fix. Repairing them for reuse can be expensive and logistically difficult. You’ll need to source materials, talent, and time in order to make that happen.
In some cases, wooden pallets can be recycled. Hefting old pallets to recycling locations, cleaning them off, and getting them ready to be safely recycled can take a lot of work, making this a surprisingly expensive and labor-intensive option.
While companies are figuring out how to reuse and recycle their wooden pallets, they take up space in warehouses. They present unsafe obstacles for workers, and they attract insects and critters as they get older or damper over time.
Ultimately, even though they’re recyclable, millions of old pallets still end up in landfills every year. There has to be a cheaper and more sustainable alternative to wooden pallets, right?
What’s an alternative to wooden pallets? Discover the pros of paper and plastic.
Are paper and/or plastic pallets easier to reuse or recycle? Let’s make a quick pros and cons list to see whether paper or plastic comes out on top.
The Pros of Plastic Pallets
We’ll be honest: Plastic pallets do have several attractive benefits. For example:
- Plastic pallets can be easier to move around.
- Plastic pallets can be a more hygienic option than wooden pallets.
- Plastic pallets can be safer than wooden pallets. (No splinters!)
- Plastic pallets may have a longer lifespan than wooden pallets.
The Cons of Plastic Pallets
However, a closer look into the way people use and reuse plastic pallets leads to the discovery of some clear downsides:
- Plastic pallets can be more expensive than wood.
- If damage to a plastic pallet occurs, it is not a simple process to repair. The pallet would have to be melted down and remolded. Damage is common when working with forklifts.
- Plastic pallets release toxic gases when burned.
Seems unfortunate, right?
What if there was another affordable alternative to wooden pallets that had many of the same benefits as plastic pallets without the undesirable downsides?
The Pros of Paper Pallets
Here are our favorite details surrounding a truly eco-friendly alternative to traditional wooden pallets:
- Paper pallets are easily recyclable.
- They’re much lighter than plastic alternatives, which makes them safer when dropped and a valuable asset for saving money on freight fees.
- They take up less space in your warehouse, allowing you to use more space for value-adding products.
- They’re dust-free, mold-free, and stay clean easily.
- There’s no need to worry about a slip sheet for a paper pallet. (One less thing to worry about!)
- Paper pallets are ISPM exempt, which means there’s no heat treatment needed for exporting.
- Finally, paper pallets are cheaper than plastic ones. Their price is comparable to or cheaper than wood!
Long story short: Paper pallets can add incredible value to your organization’s packing, storage, and shipping processes without sacrificing quality or requiring a huge investment.
That’s the kind of upgrade we like to see.
Ready to learn more about paper pallets?
Paper pallets can constitute an affordable, sustainable, and easily recyclable alternative to traditional wooden pallets. However, you do need to make sure that you’re working with a high-quality supplier—otherwise, you might end up with a product that doesn’t actually solve any problems for you.
At Sonoco, we’ve been working in the sustainable packaging industry for years. We’ve helped myriad companies think outside the box (or pallet) and save money, time, and stress. Our materials scientists and packaging experts are ready to learn more about your product specs, daily operations, and more to help you select the best type of pallet for you. We’ll also help you transition successfully to paper pallets with minimal frustration on your part!
Interested in learning more about the practical benefits of paper pallets? Download our ebook, Everything You Need to Know About Paper Pallets, today!