Introduction to plastic pallets
Every company that moves items such as raw material or finished goods uses a pallet and material handling equipment to move those items. Pallets are used in every nation and in every warehouse. The majority of those pallets are made from wood. In the US the construction of pallets accounts for almost half of the lumber used each year. But not everyone thinks that pallets should be made from wood. Over the past few years the environmental movement has questioned the use of amount of wood that is used each year and the problems that this discarding pallets in landfills. Others have been concerned about the use of wood pallets in the movement of food and the ability for insects and fungal matter to live on wood pallet. With these concerns, pallets made from plastic and metal have been introduced to alleviate some of these issues.
Issues with Wooden Pallets
Some environmental issues have been raised about the use of wood for the construction of pallets, especially when they are used for shipping and storing food items. Because wood is porous, it can absorb fluids which may contain bacteria. This creates food sanitation risks such as listeria, E. coli and salmonella. The FDA has indicated that wooden pallets cannot be used in conjunction with certain food processing procedures, because of the risks of contamination.
The treatment of wood is another concern. Composite wood pallets can contain formaldehyde which is a known carcinogen. This may come into contact with food when it is stored and shipped on wooden pallets. Wood pallets can also be a site for insect infestation. To treat this, they require heat treatment or fumigation with Methyl Bromide, which is a toxic chemical.
Another issue with wooden pallets is the flammability. When dry pallets have a very low flash point and fires are often accelerated by stacks of wood pallets. When alight, wooden pallets can give off a number of toxic fumes.
Benefits of Plastic Pallets
Plastic pallets can give a number of benefits over traditional wooden pallets. In food safety the plastic pallet obviously cannot contain an insect infestation, and they can be washed or disinfected to remove any fluids that may have been spilt on the pallet.
The plastic pallet is suitable for the increased use of RFID tags. The tags can be embedded into the pallet so the pallet can be traced along the supply chain . It is harder to apply a RFID tag to a wooden pallet and ensure it is not removed. In addition the plastic pallet is in service considerably longer than a wooden pallet, so there is a lower cost due to the smaller number of RFID tags that need to be purchased.
The plastic pallet is also totally recyclable. The pallets can be made from recycled resin, so damaged pallets can be remolded to make a new pallet, so the damaged pallet will not take up space in landfills.
The weight of plastic pallets gives a great cost saving for shippers. The average plastic pallet weighs thirty percent less than wood so the overall cost of shipping goods is lower for items shipped by weight. This means less fuel is required and lower carbon emissions.
Users of plastic pallets are also noting benefits for their employees. Due to the lower overall weight of the plastic pallet over wood, their employees are less likely to injury themselves moving pallets. The plastic pallets also are made with a number of molded handholds so it is easier to get a hold of a plastic pallet and there are significantly less injuries from plastic pallets. Wooden pallets are often damaged or have loose nails that can cause injuries.