Sonoco Say No to Pallet Contamination
01 Aug 2014
The traditional wooden pallet has been making all of the industry headlines recently. It is unfortunate that this publicity has been for all of the wrong reasons. This intense attention from the media, particularly in the United States, has been brought about by the results of a study which claims that wooden pallets used for the transportation of food are possible breeding grounds for harmful bacteria and contaminants. However, further analysis of these findings seems to indicate that it is how these pallets are actually handled and stored that can potentially cause problems and not the construction of the pallets themselves.
Increasing the Use of Recycled Plastic Pallets
Although an initial draft rule concerning safe food transportation has been issued by the US Food and Drug Administration, the final documentation is yet to be released. This scenario has led to pallet providers taking steps themselves and implementing their own measures to lessen the possibility of food-stuff contamination. One of these pallet manufacturers, Sonoco, is leading a concerted effort to increase the use of plastic pallets made from 100% recycled materials.
Standard plastic pallets already possess a number of advantages over their wooden counterparts. The plastic variety of pallet is far lighter than wood and therefore easier to handle. Plastic is also more durable and less likely to deteriorate after prolonged use. However, the biggest advantage, and one that is the most relevant to the concerns over contamination, is that plastic pallets are resistant to chemicals and moisture, in addition to being much easier to clean thoroughly. This makes them an ideal form of transport for the movement of food.
A Pioneering Scheme
The major stumbling block in promoting the use of plastic pallets in the food industry is cost. Wooden pallets are cheaper to purchase initially, which is why many companies still prefer to use them. In an effort to combat this, Sonoco have implemented an innovative and pioneering scheme whereby they offer to buy back their own from customers at a lower price. For a price of approximately nineteen US dollars, a consumer can purchase a recycled plastic pallet from Sonoco. After the pallets have served their purpose, Sonoco will then offer to buy them back for approximately six US dollars each, meaning that the total cost to the customer is just thirteen dollars.
Jim Lowry, Director of New Business Development at Sonoco, has confirmed that the pallets which are re-purchased are then recycled completely and made into completely new pallets. This process means that the need for sanitisation and washing is removed, as each pallet is simply recycled instead. In addition to being a highly efficient use of resources, this recycling process is friendly to the environment and greatly reduces the risk of any contamination of food when it is being transported. Sonoco have also calculated that the recycling of pallets that have been sold back to them saves approximately 15% on costs associated with the transport of goods, such as shipping, handling and the management of logistics. It seems this pioneering scheme could be a winner in every aspect.