Wooden Pallets and Sustainability
Photo from Unsplash
Originally Posted On: https://ed.ted.com/on/3KYzxeDF#digdeeper
Wooden pallets are to be found in every warehouse and it is hard to imagine business without them. They are used as containers, temporary or permanent protection for goods during transportation or storage, but also in average households when moving house.
Each year billions of wooden pallets are manufactured all over the world, that means a lot of wood is needed to meet that demand. Furthermore, we can observe the trend that plastics and other kinds of materials replace wood in manufacturing pallets. Pallet rental companies also offer alternatives to buying new wooden pallets: plastic, metal or a combination of wood and plastic.
In this article we will focus on the environmental impact of using wooden pallets in comparison with different types of recycling .
Environmental footprint of timber production is often cited as one reason for replacing wooden pallets by alternative materials such as plastic or metal ones. In general, deforestation is a significant issue when looking at supply chains in three steps: raw material acquisition, product manufacture and waste disposal. The figures do vary quite a lot but it is estimated that between 20-30% of all harvested wood ends up as waste, meaning it does not have any commercial purpose.
While the figures may vary, the bottom line is clear: there’s a significant environmental impact caused by deforestation. As wooden pallets are used for transporting goods across vast distances around the globe, they play an important role in international supply chains and cause an environmental footprint.
Steady rise of global demand for timber has implications on our wildlife because availability of natural habitats decreases; many animals end up losing their habitats or their lives to deforestation.
Sustainably sourced timber is the only way to ensure that natural habitats are not destroyed for temporary economic gain.
The world’s largest wood-producing countries have a combined forest area of more than 1.9 billion hectares, according to FAO estimates . However, a large part of their native forests is being used for commercial purposes and many trees get cut down every year in order to meet global demand for timber products.
In fact, deforestation has been estimated at 14 million hectares per year from 2000-2012 , which is equivalent to 27 football pitches every minute ! Such rates would not be possible without using wooden pallets as transportation tools promoting fast-paced supply chains across continents. In Europe alone, over 2 million truckloads with wooden pallets travelled by land in 2019.
Source your pallets carefully. Look for the relevant information on the pallet that tells you where and when it was made . It will usually be written in black ink onto a small rectangle of white wood, also known as a “plague”.
When we receive wooden pallets from our suppliers, we record their location and take photos before sending them out to customers. This helps us guarantee traceability and take responsibility for every supply chain step. The name of the supplier is stored in our database along with information about products delivered (e.g., quantity, type) and products received back (e.g., quantity, type (heat treated, standard etc).
We provide this data to authorities if necessary or required by law , which can then help take action against irresponsible companies that don’t comply with law regulations.
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