Pallets move the world. They are an essential part of the modern supply chain, used for storage and transportation, and in-store product displays and supports.
Pallets are very typically made of wood or plastic – both materials have advantages and disadvantages and here, we try to help you to understand the differences and make an informed decision about what pallets to use, and which to purchase.
Plastic pallets are used a lot in transporting fresh and frozen foods and pharmaceutical or other products with strict hygienic requirements, however, there are few restrictions on what they can be used to transport.
Plastic pallets are easy to clean, wash or sterilize, and aren’t porous.
Plastic pallets have historically been three to four more times expensive than wooden ones, however with recent timber shortages, higher lumber costs, and ongoing COVID supply chain problems, that gap continues to reduce, making plastic pallets more attractive in many instances.
Plastic pallets are lighter; their surface finish also makes them slippery and less stable for stacking. They are not suited for loads heavier than 680kg / 1,500 pounds.
If you shipping your products overseas or outbound with no way to return and reuse them, plastic pallets will generally have little appeal. This may change if shipping to countries that regulate and prohibit the import of wood pallets, shipping via air freight (because of hygiene and/or weight requirements), or due to the general lack of wooden pallets available.
Regarding wooden pallet import restrictions, the Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, for example, has very strict regulations for the import of wooden pallets, adhering to ISPM 15, set out by the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC), which is part of the United Nations.
Plastic pallets are promoted to the industry as eco-friendly, and whilst they certainly are, they are difficult to repair. They can be melted down to be recycled, and they generally have a longer lifespan than wood.
In summary, the main benefits of plastic pallets are:
- They can be reused for a long time without breakage;
- They are eco-friendly and generally recyclable;
- They are perfect for storage and reuse in warehouses;
- They are are highly durable, which makes them ideal for use on pallet wrapping machines;
- They are light, sleek, and splinter-free; and,
- They are manual handling friendly.
Wood Pallets are less expensive than plastic pallets and are more widely used.
Wood pallets can hold more weight than plastic. They can hold weights up to 1360kg / 3,000 pounds.
Wood pallets are generally easily repaired and reused. They are also very easily recycled, and can also be ‘upcycled’ into many different industries (furniture, for example) that now use pallets in their designs and manufacturing.
Wood pallets, however, are not considered ideal for fragile items. The fasteners used to construct wood pallets can damage the goods placed onto the pallet. They, therefore, pose a puncturing hazard, which needs to be carefully considered.
Wood pallets do not have the same fire safety rating as plastic. Plastic pallets burn at a much higher temperature than wood, so manufacturers are advised to check the building fire codes when deciding what pallets to purchase. Wood pallets are not waterproof. They can be prone to damage from water, and have the risk of rot when exposed to water, moisture, or humidity.
Wood pallets are well known for their high friction levels on surfaces. This friction helps the stability of the pallets, especially in a warehouse. This friction ensures that the pallet doesn’t slip during goods transportation.
In summary, there are many advantages and disadvantages to using plastic pallets or wooden pallets. Your choice will depend on a combination of factors, which we hope we have highlighted to you above. If you are unsure of which pallet you should use or would like to discuss options to determine which pallet is best for you, reach out to the TFG Global team and we will be happy to assist.
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