Most companies benefit from sustainable and cost-effective pallet systems, and overall, wood pallets are highly recycled. The most recent research has determined that 95% of wood pallets in the United States are recycled.
For some businesses, however, empty pallets can stack up over time. When unwanted pallet accumulations get out of control, they can take up valuable space, require double handling, impede video surveillance, and catch the ire of corporate risk managers. While for small businesses, it might be enough to set them outside the fence with a “free pallets” sign, that is not an option for many companies.
If you waste valuable time and space handling and storing post-use wood packaging material, it does not need to be that way. Taking a circular approach can make a lot of sense – employing strategies that maintain the value of pallets through reuse, and ultimately, recycling when the pallet material is no longer of other use. Here are five ideas that can help keep your yard clear.
Wood Pallet Return and Re-use
Moving to a pallet return and reuse program can help control empty pallet buildups in some supply chains. In this type of program, the supplier retrieves the accumulated emptied pallets. In many cases, a superior quality reusable pallet will provide a better performance and a lower cost per trip even after considering the cost of reverse logistics, sorting, and repair.
Pallet reuse programs can save money and keep your parking lot free for its intended purpose. If the idea of managing a pallet retrieval program seems like an unnecessary complication, consider reaching out to a professional pallet supplier. Many companies offer custom pallet management services.
Conversion to a more common size wood pallet
Explore pallet size options. If you can convert inbound pallets to a popular size, especially the 48×40 GMA style pallet, they will be much more attractive for a pallet recycler to pick up from your location. A bonus is that recycled 48x40s are attractively priced. Other common wood pallet sizes include 40×48, 48×48, 48×45, 48×42, 48×36, 42×42 and 37×37.
At one time, before the growth of the pallet recycling sector, empty pallet accumulations were much more prevalent. Thanks to the pallet recycling expansion in recent decades, however, there is a strong demand, especially for the 48x40s. This demand helps pallet users keep their locations free from unwanted buildups.
Wood pallet rental
If you employ a 48×40 pallet, rental may be an option. In a pallet rental program, the shipper typically rents pallets on a one-way basis for shipment to customers. Emptied pallet accumulations at the customer location are then returned to the rental provider.
Think about pallet flow-through as another possibility. This method was first pioneered over seventy-five years ago but used far too infrequently. Is it possible that your supplier can send goods to you on a pallet that you can then reuse in-house or for outbound shipment from your plant? Some companies purchase new pallets meeting their requirements and arrange to have them delivered to a supplier, so that once goods are emptied, the pallets can be put to work rather than needlessly stacking up.
If none of the options above make sense, or if you have an immediate urgency to remove unwanted pallets, recycling might be your best option. Some plants that generate high volumes of custom wood pallets and packaging have wood grinding machinery onsite to reduce it to fiber. Many other companies contract with recyclers to take wood waste away. The cost of the service will depend in part on the recovery value of the material.
Recyclers recover wood to its highest possible value, including pallets, recovered pallet components, and finally, converting unusable material to fiber. Fiber is used for a range of purposes, including new board or sheet products, biomass, mulch, bedding, and more.
As a leading pallet association says, “Pallets move the world.” Remember that pallets support the circular economy by maintaining their value in various reuse and refurbishment models, or by being recycled into components and ultimately, fiber, as outlined above. That same circular approach also aids in keeping your location clear from unwanted accumulations of empty pallets. Contact a pallet professional to find out more.