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Celebrating Earth Day with the Ultimate Sustainable Package

Natalya Calleja

There are more than 2 billion wooden pallets in the United States alone. See why they're the complete sustainable package.


This might make you feel old: the first Earth Day event was held nearly 50 years ago on April 22,1970. In case you weren’t there or were too young to remember, millions of people took to the streets to protest the impact of industrial development on our planet: smog, water pollution, litter, and the decline in biodiversity.

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The massive Earth Day event made an impression. That same year, the U.S. Congress and President Richard Nixon responded by creating the Environmental Protection Agency and passed the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act, among other environmental laws. With each passing Earth Day, global awareness and individual and corporate commitment to sustainability in all of its forms has exploded. Sustainability is something my 48forty colleagues and I both celebrate and practice everyday. Let me explain.

The Lifecycle of a Wooden Pallet

Wooden pallets aren’t a “one and done” package. A highly sustainable solution, they’re intended to be reused and recycled. Pallets are considered new their first several trips through the supply chain toting products of all kinds. By trip four or five, they begin to show wear and likely have a few broken deck boards. No big deal to a pallet recycler like 48forty. We expertly repair the damage and send the pallet back into the pool. By trip ten, a wooden pallet is ready for the next stage in its circle of life.

[Recently switched from new to recycled pallets? Make it a seamless transition with these five tips.] 

Instead of a trip to a landfill, 48forty disassembles these battered warriors and salvages boards that can be used in other pallets. You’re probably thinking we trash the unusable bits. Instead, we continue to work on ways to dispose of broken boards responsibly. In some cases they are chipped and used as landscape mulch or for biofuel. We also strive to collect and recycle the used nails. Very little of a used wooden pallet is wasted.

48forty pallet

More than 2 Billion Wooden Pallets in the U.S. Alone

What’s truly impressive is the magnitude of 48forty’s and the wood pallet industry’s sustainability endeavors. According to research conducted by the U.S. Forest Service in Blacksburg, Virginia, there are an estimated 2 billion wooden pallets in the U.S. pallet pool. Of these, 48forty has some 90 million under management.

Here are some other impressive numbers that reinforce recycled wooden pallets’ position as the ultimate sustainable package:

  • 43 of every 100 pallets purchased are recovered pallets.
  • 474 million pallets were recovered in 2011 – it’s a lot higher now.
  • 326 million of those recovered continued as pallets.
  • 148 million were recycled to other products.

While millions of wooden pallets still wind up in landfills, about a quarter of these are recycled. Some are adopted by crafters and do-it-yourselfers who then turn them into pallet gardens, coffee tables and works of art. Who knew?

Committed to Environmental Stewardship

Watch and see the impact you can make by using recycled pallets. 48forty repairs, recycles and reissues more than 90 million pallets annually. Not only are wood pallets an economical choice for your business, they are a sustainable and responsible one, too. (Video sources: Nature's Packaging Wood Waste Calculator and EPA Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies Calculator.)

There’s another aspect of sustainability. Wooden pallets compose 90 percent of the pallet market, making the business model of recyclers like 48forty highly sustainable. That gives my 2,200 48forty colleagues and me one more thing to celebrate this Earth Day!

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Natalya Calleja Natalya is Director of Marketing & Customer Experience at 48forty. She has over 18 years of industry experience with a strong focus on cross functional sales, marketing, and customer service. Read more about Natalya here.