Wood Pallets Got an Environmental Declaration, Here’s What It Means | Pallet Consultants
Wooden pallets have been given an Environmental Product Declaration, certifying their eco-friendly nature and sustainable properties.
The National Wooden Pallet & Container Association (NWPCA) announced an Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) for wooden pallets. This declaration was organized by the NWPCA and the Pallet Foundation in addition to the Forest Products Laboratory, a research arm of the U.S. Forest Service. This declaration was also verified by UL, a global leader in third-party EPD certification,
But what does this EPD for wooden pallets mean? In a first for the supply chain industry, it means that wooden pallets have now been certified for their eco-friendly nature. Unlike many products and packaging solutions in supply chains, wood pallets have special characteristics that make them ideal for decreasing greenhouse gas emissions through recycling, reuse and biodegradation. For more information on the green benefits of wooden pallets, contact our expert team.
The Environmental Product Declaration for wooden pallets means:
- Wooden pallets are a perfect packaging solution for supply chains
- Wood pallets can have a net-negative greenhouse impact
- Life-cycle assessment (LCA) shows the impact of each life-cycle stage
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The Perfect Supply Chain Packaging
Pallets are not only highly customizable, can be reused many times and come from renewable sources, they’re also a great way to increase the efficiency and sustainability of supply chains. This was all known before, but has been confirmed by data given in the EPD.
The ease in which pallets can be repaired in addition to their renewable materials and many design options make wooden pallets an ideal shipping platform.
Wood pallets, unlike packaging made from other materials, are produced from a renewable resource. They can also be reused several times, are highly repairable and can increase supply chain efficiency. Their ease of repair, recyclable properties, ubiquity in supply chains and other factors make them an ideal candidate for reducing greenhouse emissions. The EPD and accompanying lifecycle assessment performed on wooden pallets shows that they are the most green and sustainable supply chain packaging available, beating out plastic in metal in lifetime environmental impact.
In addition to these eco benefits, wooden pallets can be endlessly customized through the Pallet Design System and other software solutions for any application. Pallet designs of all types can be simulated and give data on expected lifecycle, ideal palletization process, weight capacity and much more. The logistical convenience, ecological friendliness and design flexibility present in wooden pallets gives them many advantages in the supply chain packaging space.
Negative Net Carbon Emissions
When any action produces carbon dioxide or greenhouse gases, it is said to have a carbon emission or a net positive carbon impact. Many parts of our lives produce positive carbon emissions, from electricity generation to using cars for transportation. Wooden pallets however can actually take carbon emissions out of the atmosphere if handled correctly according to the EPD.
The lifetime emissions of pallets can be reduced through repair, reuse and optimizing their transportation. If pallets are then turned into mulch or used to generate energy instead of natural gas, the lifetime impact of these pallets can actually become net carbon negative!
This data table from the LCA shows that energy, and therefore carbon emissions, can be recovered from wooden pallets in multiple ways.
This data shows that pallet repair and recycling have a significant impact on the environmental sustainability of wooden pallets in relation to greenhouse emissions. Through proper repair, recycling and end-of-life processing like mulching or burning for fuel, using wooden pallets can actually decrease the amount of carbon emissions in the atmosphere.
As part of a pallet's end-of-life, materials like nails can be recycled for significant carbon savings. This is a magnetic nail catching machine at our Atlanta facility.
As part of the study, a life-cycle assessment (LCA) was conducted on wooden pallets. This detailed look allows manufacturers, distributors and end users at all levels to see the climate impacts at every step in a pallet’s life-cycle.
New lumber production and new pallet manufacturing is responsible for a majority of wood pallet carbon emissions. Lifetime emissions are reduced mostly through pallet repair and reuse, and together with optimized pallet transportation this can bring lifetime emissions close to neutral in many cases. As mentioned in the section above, adding in processes like burning waste lumber material for energy generation can then make a pallet carbon net negative.
This data shows the percent of greenhouse emissions different pallet stages (A-C) have in different areas of impact, like global warming or smog creation. A1 is raw material supply, A2 is raw material transport, A3 is pallet manufacturing, B2 is repair and reuse and C is end-of-life.
From the full LCA report, page 24:
Raw material supply Module [A1] and product manufacturing Module [A3] were the major contributors to the overall environmental impact. The raw material supply phase, which includes lumber production, constituted about 34% of the GHG emissions. Wooden pallets showed notable GHG benefits when potential environmental benefits were considered [D], such as waste wood being used as fuel to replace natural gas at boilers.
As mentioned in the LCA, getting accurate data on the pallet industry and its emissions are difficult and can only be done by averaging the industry. However, the statistics provided are a great starting point for pallet producers and consumers alike and will allow the industry to make decisions based on real and verified information. The LCA shows convincingly that pallet repair and recycling substantially reduces the environmental impact of pallets. Pairing information available in the LCA with data from sources like the carbon calculator tool listed in the resource section below, pallet users can calculate and plan their carbon emissions through the lifetime of their pallet inventory, allowing for greater control over environmental impact at both the local and organizational level. For more information on the EPD, LCA or other factors that influence how environmentally friendly your operation is, contact our experienced pallet team.
- Carbon Calculator Tool: https://www.naturespackaging.org/en/tools/carbon-calculators
- EPD Full Report: https://palletfoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/EPD-report-wood-pallets.pdf
- Life-Cycle Assessment: http://palletcentral.uberflip.com/i/1310254-life-cycle-assessment-of-wooden-pallet-production
- EPD Home: https://palletfoundation.org/portfolio-item/epd/
- EPD Transparency Summary: https://palletfoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/EPD-summary-wood-pallets.pdf
- Penn State Study on wooden and plastic pallets: https://news.psu.edu/story/606589/2020/02/03/research/wooden-or-plastic-pallets-which-are-more-eco-friendly
- Product Category Rule Guidance for Wooden Pallets, UL Environment Standard: https://palletfoundation.org/ul-publishes-first-product-category-rule-for-wooden-pallets/
Pallet Consultants is a national pallet manufacturer offering a wide variety of pallet products including recycled pallets, specialty pallets, custom-sized pallets, new pallets and more. We provide quality pallets and pallet retrieval services to industries around the country. Start a conversation with our expert team to see how we can meet the pallet needs of your operation.