What Happens to Used Wood Pallets?
Have you ever wondered what happens to empty wood pallets that we see piled outside of warehouses or in the alley behind small businesses?
A lot of people think these wood pallets mostly go to landfills, but this has not been the case for several years now. In recent years, the efficient pallet recycling industry has unfolded. With this, more old wood pallets are being retrieved for repair and reuse or for transformation into wood fiber products such as landscaping mulch or fuel. Used pallets are also being used for craft projects, which is becoming increasingly popular these days.
Aside from a small proportion designed for one-time use, most wood pallets can be reused and repaired multiple times. Reusing the pallets saves energy, saves trees, and diverts usable materials from landfills. Pallets that can’t be reused can be recycled into a range of wood-based products. There are financial incentives to reuse pallets, with many producing companies requiring deposits on pallets to encourage higher return rates. Through an extended lifecycle, investing in more expensive multiple-use pallets also offers long-term savings.
Environmental Benefits of Commercial Recycling for Timber Pallets and Packaging
Pallets Most Likely to Be Recycled
Pallets most likely to be recycled are ones of the most popular sizes, such as 4840-inch or other conventional pallet footprints in North America, or 800x1200mm or 1200x1000mm in Europe. Also, pallet recovery is most likely in locations where there is a greater population.
- Some pallet manufacturers and suppliers offer a pallet return service, which may encourage a higher ROI (return on investment).
- There are also pallet repair companies, commercial composters, wood waste grinders, and other companies that offer drop-off and/or pick-up services for reusable or repairable pallets.
What Happens When It’s Recycled?
Reuse: Pallets that are used multiple times offer significant long-term financial savings compared to single-use pallets. They also offer significant cuts in solid waste generation, energy consumption, and greenhouse gas emissions.
Repair: Wood pallets are made up of various components. Therefore, if a component is damaged or gets broken, your wood pallet can easily be repaired and reused.
Recycle: Pallets are dismantled, and the wood is then processed into wood products like particleboard, wood chips, mulch, animal bedding, biofilters (for stormwater), or biomass, a source of renewable energy.
According to U.S. Forest Service figures, around 68.5% of recovered pallets are repaired so they can be reused, and another 11.9% are reusable without repair. Another 16.2% are dismantled to be used as replacement lumber, for the construction of new pallets using recycled lumber, or a combination of new and recycled lumber. Another 3.1% are chipped or ground for a variety of applications, and 0.3% end up being used for "other" purposes.