Recycled pallets offer an opportunity for companies to improve their sustainability efforts and operational efficiency. See how.
While we face enormous challenges when it comes to our environment, there are many opportunities to take action. In fact, as it’s become increasingly easy over the years to choose more sustainable products, we are seeing a shift on the consumer-side known as "green pressure." Now eco-consumption is less about the status of opting in, and more about the shame of opting out. Consumers actively seek and are willing to pay more for products that are sustainably manufactured, packaged, and delivered. For many businesses, this change in market trends can mean revisiting every step in their procurement processes to reduce their carbon footprint and resource consumption.
One of the often-overlooked components in this process is the use of pallets in the transportation of products. There are nearly 2 billion pallets in circulation in the United States. Recycled pallets offer an opportunity for companies to improve their sustainability efforts and operational efficiency.
Like the rest of 48forty, our plant in Lubbock, Texas, led by General Manager David Pine, has made sustainable business practices a priority. As David puts in, “Recycling is the foundation of 48forty. Nearly everything sold in the US goes on a pallet and into a truck. That means we have a big impact potential. We have to make sure we’re recycling as much as possible.”
David Pine, General Manager
How Pallet Recycling Works
Wooden pallets offer a highly sustainable, personalized solution because the materials can be easily repurposed to extend the life of a pallet, build a new custom pallet, or create new materials.
A typical wooden pallet makes 7 - 9 round trips in its lifetime. These trips can look very different depending on the product being shipped and the destination. However, here at 48forty, the pallet repair process is constant. If a pallet has a broken deck board or stringer, one of our pallet builders can fix it right up to squeeze as much life as possible out of that pallet.
Remanufactured (“reman”) pallets are custom-made from recycled materials to meet specific customer requirements. In short, we are able to take scrap wood and remanufacture a recycled, custom pallet from existing materials. The pallet design and dimensions can be tailored to satisfy various product and industry standards. Compared to new pallets, you see cost improvements without sacrificing performance.
Socorro Alvarado, Reman/Builder
Reman pallets can be made quickly, allowing us to respond to and meet fast-changing market demands. Reman pallets have a number of applications. The Lubbock plant has worked with a variety of companies to reman pallets for all kinds of products – potable water pumps for oil fields, flanges, custom dairy equipment, 16.9 oz. bottles, fire-suppression equipment, packaging equipment, food. The possibilities are endless, especially if your company has specific requirements.
Besides benefits on the business side, reman pallets are a sustainable solution because they allow us to use broken and damaged parts and further extend the lifespan of the materials.
Dedrick Johnson, Warehouse Supervisor
There are additional advantages to using recycled wooden pallets. Wooden pallets are less expensive than plastic ones. They can hold more weight and be repaired easily with simple tools. The materials can be sourced locally. This helps lower a company’s transportation costs and carbon footprint while making a substantial local impact. Additionally, researchers at Penn State recently conducted a comprehensive environmental analysis of wooden versus plastic pallets, and found that wooden pallets were more eco-friendly. Plastic pallets are made of products derived from petroleum or natural gas products which greatly increases their carbon footprint.
Rick Rodriguez, Lead Forklift Operator
On top of that, unlike plastic pallets, recycled wooden pallets can be modified quickly to meet changes in production and packing processes.
Eventually, even with repair and reman, a wooden pallet will reach end of life after traveling thousands of miles in the supply chain. At this point, worn pallets are disassembled instead of being sent to the landfills and their components go on to create new materials.
The wood waste is converted into landscape mulch, pellets for stoves and fireplaces, or biofuel. At our plant in Lubbock, a third-party grinder comes to the facility, grinds the pallets we can no longer use, and the by-product is used by local dairies. The facility also works with a metal recycling operation nearby to repurpose all of the nails from the pallets. “We make use of everything we can,” says David.
The Future of Pallet Recycling
Recycled wooden pallets provide suppliers and retailers an agile, cost-effective, and sustainable solution to transport their products. In particular, the flexibility of reman pallets means our customers can get the pallets they need, made on-demand. These pallets meet specific requirements and allow the company to adjust to changes in the market without added environmental impact. With the increasing environmental awareness among consumers, the use of recycled pallets will continue to have a substantial impact on the supply chain industry.
Kristy Carlile, Office Manager
48forty: Pioneer in Pallet Recycling
48forty is the largest pallet recycling company in North America. Our ability to support customers as they incorporate sustainable practices into their procurement processes is significant, and we're excited to help companies green their pallet supply chain. If you’re looking to improve your operations while meeting your company’s business and environmental goals, get in touch.
Scott joined IFCO in 2010, serving as a Regional Director and General Manager before assuming his current role of overseeing West Coast operations at 48forty. Previously, Scott worked in the building products industry for more than 20 years with Georgia-Pacific and Weyerhaeuser, holding various sales, production, operations, and general management positions. He earned a Bachelor of Science in Business Administrative from Lewis & Clark College.