Mulch and Pallets: A Connected Life-Cycle
Wooden pallets can be recycled many times over. At some point though their cargo-carrying days are over. However, that is not the end of the line. It is actually the beginning of a new life cycle for a different product: hardwood mulch.
An estimated 32 million yards of mulch are produced annually, providing a large market for an important by-product of recycled pallets. The mulch business, and a growing biomass and wood pellet market are quickly helping the industry approach the goal of zero wood waste to landfills.
It doesn’t hurt that wood chips from recycled pallets are increasingly the preferred choice of arborists. A 1990 study evaluated the landscape mulch potential of 15 organic materials, including wood chips. Wood chips were one of the best performers in terms of moisture retention, temperature moderation, weed control and sustainability. Coarse textured organic mulches, like wood chips, are also the least flammable of the organic mulches.
“Wood chips are available locally in many communities. Most sources are… made from recycled pallets and other discarded wood products. It is an ideal Master Gardener-recommended product.” Master Gardener 2007
Another key driver for the growing mulch market has been the surge in demand for colored mulch. Consumer demand, specifically for an opportunity to add a low-cost, high-impact curb appeal design statement to their home, has helped the colored mulch market grow during a very challenging residential market. The color preference varies by region with the primary earth tone colors of red, light and dark brown, and black in most demand.
The wooden packaging industry is helping deliver innovative new products from wood waste, adding value to homeowners and improving the environment. Talk about an impressive life cycle.