There are multiple arguments (sometimes heated) on whether wooden pallets should be used for your pallet deliveries, when there are other alternatives like plastic and paper pallets that can be used instead. Topics like deforestation, carbon footprint, waste of natural resources are often cited as a reason for not using wood to ship products. But is the humble wooden pallet really so bad? If you look at numbers from the USA, one of the biggest producers of pallets, it would seem that it is not.
According to the U.S. Forest Services, there were 119% more trees in the US in 2007, compared to 1953. Not only has the number of trees grown, there are also two new trees planted for every one cut down, approximately 1.7 billion trees are planted every year in the US. This leads to 42% of the annual hardwood timber growth being harvested, and as such is considered a sustainable industry.
Carbon footprint is one of those buzzwords that you see everywhere these days. It is, essentially, the full impact that something has on the climate, as measured by the amount of CO2 it causes to be emitted over the period of its full lifecycle. This could be a product, a lifestyle or even a country’s CO2 emissions. While there is no doubt that worldwide shipping is a large part of a product's total carbon footprint, pallets can actually make this number lower. By consolidating small shipments on pallets the total number of trips can be reduced and so reduce the environmental impact.
Wooden pallets are 100% recyclable, may be turned into new pallets in the form of pressed wood, and are easy to repair to prolong their life. They can even be used as furniture and in other non-shipping-related areas following their time as a shipping tool. Considering the alternatives, I would argue that using wooden pallets is by far the least wasteful way of shipping goods.
As stated earlier, there is no arguing that the shipping industry has an impact on the environment, but wooden pallets are still the best option we have for courier services. Plastic and other types of pallets are not made from sustainable resources, and while there may be specific cases where they are preferable, in the majority of shipping trips wood wins every time.