Why are Plastic Pallets Perfect for Produce?
22 Jun 2017
Plastic new and used pallet boxes are bad news for mould, dust and food pathogens such as listeria and E coli, all of which feel at home on wooden pallets. So plastic versions are great news for fresh produce and other foodstuffs which need to be packed, transported and delivered without contamination or deterioration.
The superior hygiene performance of plastic pallets is due to several different features.
Easier to Clean
Importantly, both pallets and the new pallet boxes are water-resistant. That means that they don’t retain damp, and therefore moulds find it hard to grow. The water resistance also means that when the pallets have finished being used, they can be cleaned with high-pressure hoses and brought back to a sterile state. In the US, a series of tests on wooden pallets discovered that a third of them harboured conditions that would encourage the growth of bacteria and food pathogens. Part of the problem is that wood is an organic material which is a welcoming home to many bacteria. Its uneven surface allows all kind of unwanted and unhygienic growth. Plastic, by contrast, has a smooth surface that is difficult for moulds, dust and pathogens to cling to and is easy to clean and dry.
Cleaning is a key concern for the logistics sections of the food and drink industry, and this is having an impact on the kind of new boxes in the market. The operator wants as few surfaces as possible to clean, especially if an automated cleaning system is being used. So pallet designers are now producing one-piece products which have no crevices or cavities that could allow contaminants to breed, no matter whether the pallet is stacked end-on, upright or any other way. Pallets with open decks can be cleaned and dried much more quickly and put back into the logistics operation, so it’s possible to work them harder.
Perfect for Re-use
One of the other great things about plastic pallets is that they are not only cleanable but also robust. For this reason, many producers and packers are buying used boxes which have been cleaned, since they deliver the same hygiene benefits as new boxes.
This makes plastic a surprisingly green choice, because it has a much longer life than wood. It’s also economical, since the long life means that the pallets can be used for extended periods – often up to ten years.
As more and more food producers and suppliers use plastic pallet boxes, they are beginning to be a familiar sight in our supermarkets, where boxes or pallets are simply racked into specially sized shop fittings that are raked so that consumers see the fresh produce to best advantage.