Wooden pallets are a common sight in many workplaces, playing crucial parts when it comes to displaying, transporting and storing goods. But despite their commonality, there are still many misconceptions surrounding these structures and the various roles they play.
Whether it be their impact on the environment, their recyclability or the number of purposes they can serve, some might be surprised to learn just how big a star wooden pallets are on the industrial – and, ever increasingly, on the home décor – stage.
So check out these 5 myths about wooden pallets that may just change how you view such a simple and unassuming piece of equipment:
Myth #1: Wooden Pallets Contribute To The Degradation Of Canadian Forests
It may seem logical that the production of wooden pallets results in deforestation. However, the idea that it contributes to the loss of the luscious and invaluable trees that grow across Canada – which has the largest area of certified forests in the world – is actually far from the truth.
According to the Canadian Wood Pallet and Container Association (CWPCA), more than 150 million hectares of the country’s forests are certified as sustainably managed, with less than 0.2 percent harvested every year.
And those trees are not cut down for the sole purpose of making pallets. Rather, the pallet industry is able to use the fall down lumber or by-product lumber of the housing, furniture and flooring industries.
Myth #2: Only Canadian Pallet Associations Recognize Wooden Pallets As Good For Our Environment
Some may think that wooden pallets and specifically, wood, is highly lauded in Canada only. After all, wood is a natural and renewable resource, making it an ideal environmentally friendly material for pallet production. However, the fact remains that Canada isn’t the only country that recognizes this.
Despite their simple and commonplace quality, wooden pallets have a global following, with numerous organizations having been formed to support and promote their use.
The European Federation of Wooden Pallet and Packaging Manufacturers (FEFPEB) is just one international body that understands the benefits of wood products. Its campaign, Packaging From Nature, is designed to support wood, which it calls the most economic and environmentally friendly transport material.
In the U.S., the National Wooden Pallet and Container Association says wood is the only 100 percent renewable, recyclable and reusable product available. On the other hand, the most commonly used alternatives for pallet production are made from limited fossil fuels such as oil and gas.
CEI-Bois, the European Confederation of woodworking industries, agrees, stating materials such as plastic, metal and concrete require a significant amount of energy for the extraction of raw materials and manufacturing. Wood, however, leaves a negative carbon footprint due to the carbon dioxide it stores from the time it is a living tree.
Myth #3: Wooden Pallets Are A Single-Use Product
A common myth out there is that wooden pallets serve a single purpose at the workplace, whether that’s limited to just storing products, just shipping products or just displaying products. But even after serving their initial purpose – which may combine all of those 3 uses, wooden pallets continue to prove their usefulness, contrary to what some might believe.
Due to the nature of their composition, pallets can be easily repaired when needed by reusing parts of other damaged pallets or new timber made from virgin wood, blockboard or pressed wood chips, as pointed out by CEI-Bois.
The CWPCA says pallets that have reached the end of their useful life can be dismantled and used for a variety of purposes, including energy recovery (heating), landscape mulch, animal bedding, soil enhancement, wood particle board or pressed wood pallets.
They can also be turned into wood chips, manufactured into further products or used as a renewable fuel, according the FEFPEB.
But it’s worth pausing before discarding that old or damaged pallet, as the wooden structures may have a longer lifespan than some might think. The confederation further states that the lifespan of wooden pallets can be enhanced with the use of wood preservatives or thermal treatments.
Myth #4: Pallets Are Only Used For Shipping
Wooden pallets may be most commonly associated with shipping, but that doesn’t mean its uses are limited to it.
Pallets are also used internally by companies for storage in warehousing, racking, and adaptation to manufacturing equipment.
It may be surprising to some, but recycled pallets have made a debut in the realm of interior design, adding a rustic look to homes in the form of bookshelves, tables and headboards. They have also been used to give outdoor spaces a touch of country charm by transforming into planters, lattices and even garden sheds. All it takes is a little imagination and craftiness, and the structures can make a trendy transition from warehouse to humble abode.
Myth #5: Wood Leaves a Deeper Carbon Footprint Than Its Alternatives
Many associate wood being a material that is bad for the environment. However, that doesn’t quite match up with the facts.
While pallets can be composed of a number of different materials – including plastic and metal – it is the wood variety that receives praise for having a ‘green’ nature.
Timber can be used to substitute many less environmentally friendly products such as plastics, according to the FEFPEB. The organization states that not only does it require significantly less energy to manufacture than plastic – not to mention its production is much cleaner – but it has a short carbon cycle compared with plastics made from petrochemicals.
The FEFPEB calls wood the only widely used material that has a positive effect on a business’ carbon footprint. That’s because as trees grow, they absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and continue to store it even after being cut down, explains the CWPCA. In fact, a single wood pallet can store an impressive 27 kilograms of the gas. When a pallet has finally reached the end of its life cycle – after being repaired, reused and recycled – CEI-Bois points out the wood can be recovered as energy. When burned, carbon dioxide is released back into the atmosphere, which means the material is carbon neutral or has a ‘zero’ carbon footprint.
And, contrary to what some might believe, the emissions produced from harvesting, transporting and processing wood products are small compared to the amount of carbon wood stores, according to CEI-Bois. Using wood for products such as pallets saves greenhouse gases when comparing the carbon footprints to non-wood products.
Not only are wooden pallets environmentally friendly, but they can serve many purposes throughout – and after – their lifespan, making their use of timber more sustainable. It’s for these reasons and more that international bodies have been dedicated to promoting and educating people about the effective structures.
So the next time you see one on a warehouse floor – or perhaps even in a neighbour’s garden – you may want to pause and appreciate just how much wooden pallets give back.