A survey showed that 37 percent of companies use plastic pallets citing durability, dimensional compliance, and sustainability as their primary reasons.
We are beginning to see a change, and more companies are jumping on board with using plastic pallets compared to wood pallets. Today, we will go over why that is and the benefits of using plastic pallets.
Let's take a look!
The Benefits of Plastic Pallets
Everything has advantages and disadvantages. In addition to that, every company has unique needs and wants. What might be the best fit for one company might not be the best fit for another. It's important to weigh all of the options and make a decision that is right for your specific business.
Ultimately a manufacturer or logistics distribution business must decide on what type of pallet to use based on the benefits provided. With that being said, here are five of the most important benefits of plastic pallets compared to wood pallets.
1. Longer Life Span
Plastic Pallets last 3 times longer than wood pallets on average. As we mentioned earlier, plastic pallets are much more durable than other types of pallets. They don't break or get damaged as easily when being handled by a fork truck. The HDPE plastic in pallets (like a trash container) is very impact resistant. Also, “rackable” plastic pallets often use fiberglass or metal for internal structural reinforcement, which makes the pallets strong and light. This means that you will not have to replace plastic pallets as often as you would have to replace wood pallets. It depends on the application, but plastic pallets can last up to 10 years or around 250 trips, while wood pallets usually only last two to three years.
When you choose heavy-duty plastic pallets, you can expect an even longer life span.
The longer life span of the plastic pallet, the more time and money you save in the long run. Businesses always need to be looking for ways to save money, and this is one way to do so.
2. Consistent Dimensions make them Great for Automation
Plastic pallets are usually injection molded or thermoformed. The nice thing about these processes is that the dimensional tolerances are very tight and repeatable. This characteristic is wonderful for automated systems using: conveyor, robots, ASRS, dispensers, transfers, etc. because it means you will have fewer jams than with wood pallets. Also, plastic pallets are typically plastic welded together rather than using metal fasteners. Broken boards and protruding nails are big two problems with wood pallets that can really shut down an automated system. Using plastic pallets provides your automated system greater uptime which allows you more time to fill orders each day.
3. They can be Washed Down and are Compliant with FDA and USDA Cleanliness Requirements
One of the benefits of plastic pallets is that they are more sanitary than traditional wood pallets. Plastic block pallets don't absorb moisture like wood pallets. Moisture can create serious issues such as rot (which weakens the wood), mold, and bacteria.
Plastic pallets don’t have to be fumigated to kill the bacteria and pests like wood pallets do. Plastic pallets do not have any crevices or cracks where things can hide—keeping your products free from any harmful bacteria.
Plastic pallets can easily be cleaned between uses, which is a major plus for companies that have regulatory and hygiene requirements. This is especially true in the food and pharmaceutical industries.
4. They are Safe and at “End of Life” they can be Recycled rather than becoming part of a Land Fill
Plastic pallets are much safer for your Associates than wood pallets because they don't have any nails or splinters.
Plastic pallets also don't have structural weak points like knots in wood or broken boards, which lessens the chances of them breaking apart and causing injuries. Plastic pallets are made up of a single “uni-body” plastic piece, rather than multiple pieces of wood nailed or screwed together.
Wood pallets can also harbor bacteria and pests that can be harmful to people and the carried products. With plastic, you don't have to worry about that.
The average business can spend around $120,000 on a single workplace accident or injury.
The more you ensure workplace safety and reduce injury, the more your company can be safe and prevent workers compensation claims.
Most all of the components of a plastic pallet can be ground up and reused as recycled plastic in a new pallet. This is great for the environment and saves cost over having to use virgin plastic for a new pallet.
5. They Are More Cost-Effective in Closed Loop Supply Chains
Although plastic pallets are typically 25% more for the initial purchase than wood pallets, over the lifetime of the pallet you come out way ahead with plastic pallets in closed loop supply chains. This is based on plastic pallets on average lasting 3 times longer than wood pallets.
Also, considering the recent increase in the cost of wood, plastic pallets may soon end up being about the same upfront cost as well. Lumber prices have tripled over the past few months according to the NAHB.
Either way, as a business, you're always looking for what is good for the company long term. Over time, plastic pallets end up being much more cost-effective than wood pallets.
Disadvantages of Wood Pallets
Now that we've covered some of the most important benefits of working with plastic pallets, let's talk about wood pallets for a moment. If you still haven't made up your mind about plastic or wood pallets, here are some of the reasons that many businesses are moving away from wood.
1. They Can be Unsafe
As we mentioned earlier, one of the biggest disadvantages of using wood pallets is that they can be unsafe. They have nails and splinters which can easily cause injuries. In addition to that, they can break when damaged under load, which can lead to more injuries.
2. They Are Bad for The Environment
Wood pallets at “end of life” are not recyclable and create a lot of landfill waste. Millions of wood pallets are thrown away each year in the United States alone.
When you consider the impact on our environment, it's easy to see why so many businesses are moving towards plastic pallets. Wood takes up around eight percent (8%) of space in landfills.
3. They Are Inexpensive (Kind Of)
While this may seem like a good thing at first, it's one of the disadvantages of using wood pallets. This is because businesses often have to replace them more often, which can add up in costs.
Buying cheap doesn't always end up being cheaper in the long run. Having to replace a pallets more often will end up being more expensive.
4. They Are Difficult To Clean and Fumigate
Wood pallets are difficult to clean, especially if they are stained with animal fats or syrups with sugar. This can create a breeding ground for bacteria and pests.
5. They Are Prone To Damage
Wood pallets are just not as resilient as plastic pallets. The have legs that get damaged by fork tines and wood board break and splinter on impact. Once they become damaged, they are no longer safe to use.
There are a few more things that you may want to consider when discussing plastic compared to wood pallets.
1. What Is Your Pallet Application?
As we mentioned earlier, some industries only use one type of pallet, while others use several. The products you are handling and the specific application will dictate the type of pallet required.
2. What Is Your Product's Weight?
The weight of the products you are handling will make a big difference in the type of pallet you choose. Depending on how heavy your products are, you'll need to go with more heavy-duty pallets. If you’re unsure, there are several questions you should ask your pallet manufacturer before deciding.
3. Are Your Pallets Going To Be Seen by Your Customers?
If you're planning to use your pallets as part of an in-store display, plastic will look better and be perceived as more sanitary than wood. With Artistic Composite Pallets, you’re able to customize your colors and brand your pallets with custom artwork, which is a unique benefit.
Choosing Plastic Block Pallets For Your Business
When you weigh the pros and cons of plastic block pallets compared to wood pallets, it's clear that plastic is almost always the better choice for your business. Plastic pallets are safer, more sanitary, longer-lasting, and easier to clean than wood pallets.
In addition to these benefits, plastic pallets also don't create as much waste as wood pallets. So if you're looking for a more sustainable and cheaper option for your business, plastic block pallets are the way to go.
If you have questions about plastic pallets or if you want custom design pallets for your business, contact us today!
Artistic Composite Pallets serves a wide variety of vertical industries. Because our pallets are washdown capable they are often used in the food, pharma, and beverage industries. Our pallets have tight dimensional tolerances so they are excellent for automated storage and retrieval systems (ASRS) and pallet shuttle systems in eCommerce-related companies. We use lightweight composite materials so our pallets can be used for high-value air freight applications. Please call us to see how we can help design a pallet solution for your particular industry.
About the Author Artistic Composite Pallets
Sean M Regan
Sean is an original Founder and Co-Owner of Artistic Composite Pallets. Over the past decade Sean has become one of the industry leaders in the developing customer centric solutions for some of the most advanced automated warehousing and logistics management systems.