While it cannot be denied that wood still reigns in the pallet industry, the growing popularity of pallets made from plastic is not to be denied. Even though wood controls approximately 90 percent of the United States’ market for pallets, plastic accounts for only a meager 2-5 percent. Wood pallets may still be the most popular, but the plastic pallet market has more than doubled in the last 10 years or so.
Plastic has one up on wood in its re-usability factor since wood will deteriorate over time. Further, wood needs to be repaired at periodic intervals; this is not so with plastic. Our world is all about going green and saving our environment. We have to save our trees and wood has is becoming scarcer by the year.
So what is stopping plastic from taking over the pallets market? Probably the high cost of manufacturing the pallets. In evaluating the application of the two types of pallets rather than just the good or bad of the product, we need to see which one uses the least energy and is more environmentally friendly. In order to do this evaluation, we have to see what type of pallet is reusable in its original form.
To this end, we should not forget that wood is replaceable just as resource lumber is renewable. Plastic on the other hand is made from petroleum, which is not a renewable resource. Wood is totally 100 percent recyclable and biodegradable while plastic isn’t.
Despite all of wood’s positives, the plastic pallet continues to gain importance; it is made by injection molding, thermoforming, rotational molding, and structural foam and compression molding. A variety of markets – including pharmaceuticals, automotive, grocery, foods, and beverages – are all making the changeover.
As mentioned earlier, usability is the major reason so many companies are going with plastic pallets and many manufacturers have capitalized on this by creating new designs specifically for each industry. There are many low cost options available on the market now to compare quite favorably with their wood counterparts. Low cost is achieved by the use of resin that has been recycled and scrap regrind.
International regulations demand that wood be treated for pest migration during export and this favors plastic because it adds to the cost of the wood pallets. Plastic pallets are expected to grow in popularity and are slowly gaining ground. According to the experts, plastic pallets are to one day play a bigger and bigger role as more companies adopt higher automation levels. Plastic’s reliability and usability are making it the favored choice in comparison to wood, which is vulnerable to splintering and damage.