The Recycling Cycle
19 Mar 2016
Plastic pallets have grown in popularity as they gain the recognition they deserve for being a cost-effective and sustainable solution for the transportation of goods and building materials. Unlike wooden pallets that have a variable lifespan that rarely extends beyond 10 uses, plastic pallets, while initially more expensive, can last up to 10 years, offering an excellent return on investment. The reusable advantage of plastic pallets, coupled with their ability to be recycled, highlights plastic’s importance to the conservation of nonrenewable resources and reductions in energy emissions.
Plastics – An Environmentally Friendly Packaging Solution
Plastics are making a big contribution to environmental sustainability. According to a recent study on the impact of plastic packaging on life-cycle energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, there are six categories of plastic packaging that offer significant energy and climate benefits.
These include caps and closures, beverage bottles, rigid containers like plastic boxes and plastic crates, carrier bags, stretch/shrink wrap and other types of flexible packaging. All of these plastics can be recycled and made into new products, including new plastic pallets. When these are reused and recycled, it keeps the recycling loop closed.
Plastic pallets are most often made out of high-density polyethylene (HDPE), which improves impact resistance and strength. HDPE’s additional resistance to corrosion and moisture extends the lifespan of plastic pallets.
Polypropylene, a material similar to HDPE, is used to make plastic pallets that need to hold very heavy weights or be stacked in a warehouse. Although more expensive than HDPE, polypropylene is more rigid and functions better at higher temperatures.
Plastic pallets made of rigid plastic are perfect for recycling, and both HDPE and polypropylene can be recycled to make new plastic pallets out of a composite resin that not only has the advantages of the original materials but also does so at a lower cost.
Plastic Pallets Conserve Resources
The recycling of plastics fits into the Waste Framework Hierarchy, which seeks to improve efficiency and sustainability of material resources and is now protected by law as part of the Waste Framework Directive.
Plastic pallets meet the standard at each level of the hierarchy. At level one, prevention, plastic pallets can be kept for longer or reused. At level two, preparing for reuse, plastic pallets can be easily cleaned or heat-sterilised and are naturally resistant to contamination. At level three, or recycling, plastic pallets can be ground down and turned into new plastic products. By the end of the life cycle at level five, plastic pallets still represent a valuable stream of waste plastics.
The bottom line is that plastic polymers are made from oil, coal and gas, which are all non-renewable. Where a plastic pallet cannot be repaired or reused, recycling conserves valuable resources and reduces the energy needed for plastic production. A company that tests plastics can help you ensure that your pallets are 100% plastic – an important consideration when it comes to recycling.