Are Plastic Pallets the Greenest of them all?
11 Apr 2016
Environmental issues are more important in today’s marketplace. Customers, consumers and companies all want to reduce their carbon footprint and improve their green credentials – it’s good for business in a number of ways. It saves you money and it brings you more business, so it makes sense to examine how you can achieve environmental improvement goals.
One area that many companies are looking at is packaging and transportation. Unnecessarily elaborate, expensive or heavy packaging is on the way out. Goods need to be lighter to be transported in a greener way – the less products weigh, the less fuel is needed to transport them. It’s not just the packaging of individual products that is being discussed, however, it’s also the pallets in which they are transported.
How Green Is Your Plastic?
The producers and users of plastic pallets claim that their pallets are the greenest option available. There are several reasons for this.
The first reason is weight. A plastic pallets weighs less than a wooden pallet, the most common kind of pallet, although both weigh more than cardboard. This means that every load transported using plastic pallets uses less fuel. If a load uses less fuel, it costs less to transport and has a lower carbon footprint. Using plastic pallets, therefore, makes sense if you are looking at the weight of the goods to transport.
You will often hear the counter argument that plastic pallets cost less to transport but more to make. Manufacturing new plastic pallets uses non-renewable resources and uses much more energy than the manufacture of wooden pallets. Wood is, after all, a sustainable, renewable resource. Plastic pallets, however, are very durable. They last much, much longer than wooden pallets, needing far fewer repairs and replacements. So although the initial manufacturing cost of a new plastic pallet might be higher, both in terms of money and carbon emissions, that cost is spread over a much longer period of time.
No plastic pallet lasts forever, no matter how sturdy the plastic it is made from. You can lower costs and carbon emissions by buying used plastic pallets and extending their working life, but ultimately they will have to be disposed of. Opponents of plastic pallets point out that plastic is harder to recycle than wood, but it can be recycled. Responsible pallet owners need to make sure that they can recover their pallets after a delivery has been made – given the re-usability of plastic, this is a very good idea anyway – and that they can access a good plastic recycling scheme. Then broken or worn pallets can be recycled by being ground down into plastic resin and then used to make new pallets or other plastic products.
When deciding on which type of pallet you will use, you need to weigh all these factors very carefully.