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Plastic Pallets vs Wooden Pallets: Advantages and Disadvantages

24 Jun 2014

Across the globe millions of pallets are used every day to transport goods between countries and store products at manufacturing sites. The two main materials used to produce these are wood and plastic. Wood is still the primary source for pallets and accounts for around 90% of the world’s supply. However, plastic pallets are starting to catch up and have many benefits to the customer. Both types of pallets have their advantages and disadvantages, and the choice will largely be dependent on budget and requirements.

Advantages of Wood

When compared to plastic, wooden pallets can be purchased at a much lower cost. This means that businesses do not have to have large sums of capital tied up in their pallets, which is especially important for smaller businesses with the economy still in a state of recovery.

If a wooden pallet breaks, then it can easily be replaced, whereas this isn’t possible with a plastic pallet. The section of the pallet that is broken or splintered is simply removed and a new strip of wood inserted. Often this wood will come from an existing pallet, reducing the number of new pallets that need to be purchased.

Wood is fully recyclable and pallets can be manufactured from recycled supplies. This limits the number of trees that need to be cut down and reduces the amount of energy used. Once a wooden pallet has reached the end of its usable life, it can then be recycled into a new pallet.

Wood is a fairly strong material, ensuring the pallets are secure enough to carry the desired weights. They also have a high level of friction, which prevents materials sliding off once they are loaded on to the pallet.

Disadvantages of Wood

One of the major problems with wooden pallets is that they are hard to completely clean. This can lead to them harbouring fungus and bacteria and means they are unsuitable for use in the food, drink and pharmaceutical industries. They are also prone to splinters and protruding nails, which are potential safety hazards for employees, as well as shrinking and warping. In general, wooden pallets don’t last as long as plastic ones, meaning that businesses are constantly needing to pay to replace them.

Advantages of Plastic

Plastic pallets also have their advantages over wood, as well as a number of disadvantages that need to be factored in. Before they can be used for international shipping, wooden pallets need to be heat-treated. The checks required once they arrive at a port or border can slow down the speed of a delivery. There are no such issues with a plastic pallet, which can be used as manufactured across the globe.

A plastic pallet will last for a considerable length of time without the quality being affected. This makes it an efficient investment for companies. Plastic also has its environmental benefits and the pallets can be manufactured from recycled materials. A broken plastic pallet can then be ground down and made into further items.

Plastic is far lighter than wood, making the pallets easier to handle for operators. However, this lightness doesn’t impact on the strength of the pallets, and they are still able to carry heavy loads. These pallets are chemical- and moisture-resistant, as well as being quick and easy to clean. This ensures that the pallets are extremely hygienic and makes them suitable for use in industries such as food and pharmaceuticals.

Disadvantages of Plastic

In many circumstances, plastic pallets offer more benefits than wood. This is especially true in sectors that demand high levels of cleanliness. However, they are not without their disadvantages. If a plastic pallet gets broken, it cannot easily be repaired. It is not as simple as replacing one slat, and generally the entire pallet will need to be changed.

The initial costs of plastic are considerably higher than wood, which is what puts many companies off purchasing them. Businesses that are looking to buy pallets need to consider the long-term picture and factor in areas such as repairing and replacing wooden pallets compared with the durability of the plastic ones. When a pallet is loaded, there is not as much potential for grip, making the pallets harder to handle.

Overall, both plastic and wooden pallets have an extensive range of advantages and disadvantages. When you’re looking to buy pallets, it’s important to consider exactly how they will be used, in order to determine which the right type is.

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