A pallet’s life is lengthy when considerations of source, creation, and total use are factored in. It is the hope of this blog that you will come away with a better understanding of how effective a pallet can be over its life cycle, and how recycling pallets extends their lifespan considerably.
As most pallets are constructed of wood, a pallet must begin as a tree. Various woods are used for pallet construction, both soft and hard. Soft woods include pine, spruce, and cedar; hard woods include oak, maple, and beech.
Trees are carefully tended while they grow, either naturally in forests, or on tree farms. Apart from contributing significantly to Earth’s oxygen supply, trees also provide, through their reproduction, further trees so that wood can be sustainable as a product for use in human industry.
Logging and Milling
When these trees are of a sufficient size, they are logged and taken to sawmills. Lumber is milled from logs and can therefore be used for a variety of purposes. For our purposes, that lumber is taken and used to construct a pallet.
Pallets are generally constructed with three parallel boards acting as support for other surface boards running the other direction. These underboards are known as stringers. Alternatively, a lattice network of stringers can be used in additional to surface boards, thus creating what is known as a block pallet.
Pallet: A Quick Definition
Pallets, broadly speaking, are a flat, sturdy platform, used for the moving of goods or parts of goods from one place to another. They are used in almost every industry, from groceries, to dental care products, to the manufacturing of cars. There are a few relatively standard sizes of pallet in North America, although generally they range between three and a half and four feet in both length and width, and approximately six inches high.
Once a pallet is constructed, it is given to a distribution company for sale. Some companies sell their pallets outright, while others rent them out. Other companies in need of pallets can arrange to purchase pallets for whatever they might need to transport.
A Pallet’s Service
Once purchased, pallets are used to move goods and parts of goods as explained above. Pallets greatly speed up the manufacturing and distribution process, since they are much more stable methods for transporting cargo than the wooden box or barrel, as was prevalent prior to the twentieth century.
Repair and Recycle: Extending the Life of a Pallet
Inevitably, a pallet will become damaged in the course of its service. Damage, however, does not mean a pallet is unusable. Multiple companies, such as Pallet Consultants, repair and recycle pallets. They can replace surface boards, stringers—those boards on the underside of the pallet which give it structural support and allow for heavier loads—and other various repairs. Often, pallet companies offer on-site pallet repairs, thus cutting down on costs.
Once a pallet develops too many issues to be effectively repaired—which may take many cycles of service and repair—they are then taken and combined with other recycled pallets into a combination pallet. This can be compared to taking an old car apart for the parts which are still in good condition and can be used to repair other cars. Alternatively, pallets which are too badly damaged to be of use are turned into mulch---thus assisting in the production of more trees—or biofuel.
As can be seen, pallets are much more than simple means by which goods are transported. They are, first and foremost, trees used for their wood, and are often recycled and reused extensively. Therefore, pallets contribute to the overall health of our environment, and thus our world.