Pallet Recycling

If a used pallet cannot be repaired and reused, it must be recycled or sent to a landfill. The best option, of course, is pallet recycling. In the case of a used wood pallet that has reached the end of its life, the components are salvaged for reuse in other pallets or the wood is ground for use as landscape mulch, animal bedding, or wood stove pellets.

Less than 3% of the nearly 700 million pallets manufactured and repaired each year end up in landfills according to a study by Virginia Polytechnic Institute and the USDA Forestry Service. The actual end of life disposition for other pallets (plastic, metal, etc.) is generally unproven and untested at any significant volume levels. Though manufacturers of these platforms may boast the theoretical ability to regrind or otherwise reform the materials into new products (similar to what has been done with other commodities using these materials) time will tell whether the recollection, transportation, and processing can be performed in an economically and environmentally sound manner.

Every year, 1.9 billion wooden pallets are in circulation in the United States, transporting a variety of goods. Recycling over 73.3 million pallets last year, our efforts resulted in over 1.8 million tons of lumber being diverted from landfills. Our pallets are 100% reusable, recyclable, and come from a renewable resource, and our recycled pallets meet or exceed the capability of new pallets at a fraction of the cost. Our Pallet Management Services reduce packaging and transportation costs across the supply chain. Our flexible pallet recycling and pallet management services business model enables us to offer custom services to companies in a wide range of industries.

IFCO is the largest pallet recycler in North America. Partnering with customers, vendors and suppliers has given us the competitive advantage in the pallet repair and recycling process. Our Repair Service Centers, run by trained professionals, feature the finest in automated cutting, assembly and recycling systems. Some of the benefits you'll reap from our repair and recycling services:

  • - Reduced overall pallet costs
  • - Return on pallet investment
  • - Increased life of pallet
  • - Consistent pallet quality
  • - Environmentally-friendly

Waste disposal and environmental issues

Waste (of any kind) increases both financial and environmental costs. Financial costs include pallet disposal fees and the elimination of possible revenue, as reusable and multi-use pallets have value after use and should be sold. The exceptions to this rule are pooled/leased pallets, which do have value after use but only for the pooling/leasing company. You may incur a charge to return these pallets or pay lost pallet fees if you fail to do so. At the other extreme, one-way pallets cannot be reused and require disposal. The lowest-cost option is to use reusable stringer pallets and sell them back to your supplier. The environmental costs of your pallet program must be evaluated in three areas of impact: raw material, distribution network, and end-of-life use. A reusable wood pallet requires just one-eighth of the raw material as a comparable plastic pallet. Despite rumors to the contrary, trees are rarely cut down to make wood pallets; they are cut down for more valuable items such as building materials and furniture. Most new pallets are built from the leftover lumber that would likely be discarded otherwise. Recycled pallets are used over and over and usually are repaired with recycled lumber. They do not end up in landfills (Source: National Solid Waste Management Association). A pallet program’s distribution network also affects its environmental cost. Reusable pallets are retrieved at the end of the supply chain and redeployed locally, while pooled pallets must be transported back to one of the pooler’s few depots (potentially hundreds of miles away), and shipped back out to manufacturers. This repositioning, though necessary for a pooled pallet program, results in greater fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. Pallets that are reused at the end of the supply chain reduce waste. It is a common misunderstanding that only pooled pallets are reusable, when 48x40 wood stringer pallets are as well. These pallets are repaired and reused, minimizing landfill diversion, raw material use, and greenhouse gas emissions (Source: Peter Hamner and Marshall White, Virginia Tech).

Factors Impacting the Environmental Sustainability of Pallet Programs

When the sustainable packaging movement first began, attention was initially focused on primary or “consumer” packaging. As the movement evolved, it became clear that secondary or “transport” packaging, such as bulk containers and pallets, also had significant impact on the environment. This impact depends on many of the same factors as that of primary packaging: use of renewable or recycled source materials, clean and energy-efficient production, and effective post-use recovery. In addition to these factors, one must also consider transport packaging’s adherence to industry specifications, impact on transportation efficiencies, and logistics network efficiency when comparing solutions.

Due to the variety of pallet specifications, source materials, production methods, and logistics options, it is helpful to look at the environmental impact of each attribute separately when evaluating a pallet program. With reliable information on each of these concerns, managers will be able to accurately assess the environmental sustainability of pallet programs and choose the program that not only meets their performance and cost targets, but environmental goals as well.

Calculate Your Impact

Use the tool below to calculate your environmental savings using IFCO pallet management services.

  Environmental Benefits of IFCO Pallet Recycling      
       
  How many surplus or broken GMA (48x40) pallets did IFCO recycle on your behalf?    
       
  How many wood Block pallets (Chep, PECO, etc.) did IFCO handle on your behalf?    
       
  How many odd size (non-48x40) pallets did IFCO recycle on your behalf?    
       
  How much scrap lumber did IFCO process on your behalf (lbs.)?    
       
  Annual Landfill Diversion (tons)    
       
  Equivalent Number of Trees    
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