Plastic Pallets – All You Need To Know

Here at Exporta, we’re experts in plastic pallets. To help pass our knowledge to our customers and explain the many benefits of using plastic pallets over wooden pallets, we’ve created a full guide with all of the information you need to know before making the investment for your business. 

From the benefits and cost factors to environmental impact and safety, read on for everything you need to know about plastic pallets.

Why Choose Plastic Pallets?

One of the biggest queries our clients have is what benefits plastic pallets have over wooden pallets. Check out our list and infographic below on wood vs plastic to see the many reasons why switching to plastic pallets could be the best option for your business!

plastic pallets vs wood pallets

 

The Benefits of Plastic Pallets:

Plastic Pallets Are Lighter  

If you’re shipping goods via air-freight and using wood, then you’re probably paying WAY too much for your carriage. You could save up to £45 per pallet on carriage, particularly with lightweight plastic pallets.

Plastic Pallets Last A Long Time

Because of their construction, plastic pallets have a bit of flex in them. This means they are less susceptible to cracks. They last much longer than wooden pallets and save you a lot of admin and time. Plastic pallets last up to 10 years and up to 10 times longer in a closed-loop system than wooden pallets. How much of a saving is that for you?

Plastic Pallets Are An Investment

Wooden pallets are a cost – you never see that money again. However, plastic pallets are an investment. Due to their design and durability, they are much more cost-effective overall.

You could experience ROI in under 5 weeks on a busy pooling system.

Plastic Pallets Use Less Space

Nestable plastic pallets slot inside each other when they’re not in use.  This means they use about 1/3 of the space of a wooden pallet when idle. Four times as many nestable plastic pallets can fit in one stack compared to wooden pallets. What will you do with all that extra space saved?

Plastic Pallets Are Safer

Wooden pallets require careful handling, as there is a significant risk of splinters and injury from broken bits of wood. Save on PPE equipment and in costly downtime with plastic pallets, as there are no sharp edges, nails or splinters.

Plastic Pallets Are Uniform 

No matter how hard they try, each wooden pallet is different. Plastic, however, comes out of the mould exactly the same every single time, which ensures the smooth running of production lines and safety within any storage area. Plastic is IDEAL for automation.

Plastic Pallets Can Carry Over 7 Tonnes

Did you know that plastic pallets can hold over 7 Tonnes in weight?  Because wood has flaws in it, there is a theoretical load limit. Plastic suffers no such flaws. What items could you put on a heavy-duty plastic pallet?

Plastic Pallets Are Hygienic 

If you operate in a food or medical environment, then you’ll want to make sure you don’t get

any ingress or contamination. Plastic pallets are far more hygienic than wooden pallets. With no collection points for dust, dirt, or mould, their surfaces are easier to keep thoroughly clean.

Plastic Pallets Are Exempt From ISPM15 Regulations

Unlike the requirements for wooden pallets shipped between countries, plastic pallets do not need to follow ISPM15 regulations.

Plastic Pallets Are More Environmentally Friendly 

Most plastic pallets are manufactured from recycled materials and can still be recycled. Where virgin plastic is used for food/pharmaceutical/hygienic applications, these can also be recycled at the end of their life.

Plastic Pallets Are Impervious to Moisture

Unlike wooden and Presswood pallets, plastic pallets will not absorb moisture and this eliminates damages to palletised goods and reduces mould and bacteria forming.

 

The Cost of Plastic Pallets

Thinking about switching to plastic pallets but put off by the cost?

One of the reasons businesses are hesitant to switch to plastic pallets is due to the misconception of cost. While it is generally true that an untreated pallet made from wood is far cheaper than a plastic pallet used for the equivalent purpose, add in heat treatment and certification for export then the price gap begins to close. Wood prices have been rising and as such the gap is narrowing all the time. So, when choosing plastic or wooden pallets, it’s important to think about long-term costs. 

When you look at wood v plastic over a longer time period, then the tables are truly turned. The initial cost of purchase is higher for plastic pallets but because they last so much longer than the wooden equivalent, making them actually much more cost-effective in no time. 

Here are some recent case study examples calculated in conjunctions with a few of our customers:

Scenario 1: A Closed-Loop Operation

One of our customers operated a closed-loop operation, whereby pallets were used to transport goods to stores and hubs and then backhauled to the central distribution centre or regional hubs for reuse.

We trialled and calculated with them the cost differences between wood and plastic for 1000 pallets in their current operation. The wooden pallets were only lasting for an average of 6 trips each and so the initial purchase of 1000 pallets only lasted 1 week in operation before they were replaced with another batch.

Initially, the cost outlay for the 1000 plastic pallets was 4 times that of the wooden pallets, but the plastic pallets lasted on average 42 weeks and not just one. This means that the total cost over the one-year period was 10 times less for the plastic pallet compared to the wooden ones!

The initial barrier here was the initial purchase price of a pallet, but, as you can see, the continual cost of replenishing those pallets as they wore out was often overlooked and the cost savings over the year were quite unexpected.

 

Scenario 2: An Air Freight Operation

We worked with another customer last year who exports goods via air freight to various places around the world. Together, we calculated the cost/benefit difference for the shipping of these pallets on two of their routes, between the wooden pallets they were currently using and the new lightweight nestable plastic pallets that we recommended to them.

What we found was the initial cost of the plastic pallet was more expensive. In fact, the plastic pallets worked out as 15% more expensive to buy initially. However, due to the lower weight and the volumetric charging system for air freight, the total costs of shipping a pallet of goods (including the purchase of the pallets) came out at 28.2% cheaper on their route to India and 34.9% cheaper on the longer route to South Korea.

The customer feedback was very positive, and they have since swapped completely to the use of our plastic pallets.

Scenario 3: An Automotive Company

A further study with an automotive company found that the payback period for the initial outlay and investment in a plastic pallet to replace wooden pallets had a very short payback. In fact, that payback was less than 16 weeks, which for material handling investments is very quick indeed.

Conclusions

  • Plastic pallets last much longer than a wooden pallet equivalent. On average, up to 10 times longer!
  • Although the initial cost of a plastic pallet is usually higher than a wooden pallet, the lifetime cost is less because of greater durability.
  • This means that, in most cases, the payback period for introducing plastic pallets can be very short and the long-term cost savings significant.

 

The Environmental Cost of Plastic Pallets vs Wooden Pallets

Often, we assume wood is good, and plastic is bad. But is this actually true when it comes to pallets? Wood is perceived to be better for the environment, more cost-effective and more useful. But let’s look further and deeper into this and see what comes out.

Wood is good, isn’t it?

Just start by thinking about where wood actually comes from. It comes from trees, which are hugely significant in the world’s ecosystem. Trees are cut down to make wooden pallets, leading to deforestation. Deforestation, along with pollution, is deemed as one of the biggest contributing factors to global climate change.

What’s more, wood itself is hard to recycle. It can be reused up to a point and then it takes a long time to break down and degrade. Therefore, a lot of wood waste is either burnt or put into landfill, both of which are detrimental to the environment.

Plastic is bad, isn’t it?

Well, there are some issues and drawbacks with plastic. Plastic is not biodegradable and waste plastic is bad for the environment. Plastic is a by-product of the oil industry, and it will still be many years before oil production is stopped, which means plastic production is still an inevitable consequence. However, how we use that plastic and how responsible we are with it is the key.

Plastic waste is an issue, and we have a lot of it globally. The answer to dealing with this waste is to be able to reuse and recycle it into something that is useful and will last. Waste plastic can be used to make plastic pallets, thereby taking the harmful waste and turning it into something useful.

At Exporta, we’re committed to this environmental responsibility. The plastic pallets that we sell are mostly made from recycled material. In fact, over the last 18 months, 98% of the plastic pallet we sold were made from recycled plastic. 100% of those pallets are recyclable at the end of their useful life and can be remade into new pallets.

Conclusions

  • Plastic pallets are recyclable and 98% of ours sold are recycled, plus all can be recycled at the end of their useful life.
  • Plastic pallets don’t require trees to be cut down and don’t impact deforestation.
  • Plastic pallets can be made from waste plastic and thus help to provide a possible solution for managing plastic waste.
  • Plastic pallets last much longer than a wooden pallet equivalent – on average, up to 10 times or more longer.
  • Plastic pallets are more versatile and accurate for various scenarios and can have specific characteristics and guaranteed weight load capacities, whereas wood cannot.

Plastic Pallet vs Wood Pallets Safety:

Plastic pallets are the number one choice when it comes to carrying goods in the shipping and logistics companies. More and more companies are now turning to plastic pallets for their day to day usage. There are many reasons behind it and one of them is their high safety standards. While plastic pallets are strong, light and inexpensive, they are also safer than wood pallets.

It is the responsibility of the company to protect the interests of its employees. Injuries on the job can lead to a wastage of time resulting in increased labour costs, among other unappealing factors. So, let’s look at how exactly plastic pallets are safer than wooden pallets.

  • Lower Risk of Injury

Plastic pallets do not contain any splinters, nails, sharp edges, or chipping like wood pallets. Wood pallets being used on the job result in more employees getting hurt for a variety of reasons. Wood pallets are prone to contamination whereas plastic pallets are immune to this problem.

  • No Water Damage

It is a common scenario where pallets get wet when they are moved around from place to place. Wood and water do not go hand in hand. If the wood gets wet, it can lead to all sorts of problems such as rot, bacteria, germs and pests related problems.

Now in the same scenario, if plastic pallets become wet, there are no issues because plastic will not absorb water. All you have to do is get a dry cloth and wipe the plastic pallet down. It repels water, unlike wood that absorbs it, creating more problems for employees. Wood might simply fall apart in this case if it is waterlogged. This can be dangerous when it happens at the time of transporting goods and heavy materials.

  • Hygienic & Easy To Clean

It is also very easy to clean plastic pallets. Plastic pallets can be easily cleaned using a high-pressure water treatment. They have a smooth and clean surface which can also be easily wiped clean using detergents, cleaners or solutions. 

Wood pallets, however, have a rough surface and absorb water which makes it difficult to wash and clean. Not cleaning at regular intervals can lead to contamination, fungi, pests, bacteria, and other problems. People who are handling the goods on the pallets might get sick resulting in increased costs and labour shortage.

Therefore, plastic pallets offer a safer and contamination-free environment, making them more hygienic when compared to wood pallets.

  • Reduced Fire Risk

Another benefit of using plastic over wood is fire safety. Wood can easily catch fire, which can not only destroy the pallets, but also the goods being carried on them and everything else in the vicinity. Plastic, on the other hand, is technically fireproof. Make the right and obvious choice and choose plastic pallets over their wooden pallet counterparts.

Conclusion

Wood poses some serious health and hygiene-related risks, whereas plastic pallets make it that much easier to eliminate these concerns entirely. A lot of food and agricultural industries and companies are now turning to plastic as a choice of pallets for their shipping and transportation usage for these reasons.

Which Pallet is Right For Me?

Should I Use Nestable Lightweight Pallets?

  • If you are exporting, then plastic should be considered. As plastic pallets are exempt from ISPM15 regs, it means there is less paperwork for you, and less chance of your goods being rejected because of an unsuitable pallet. As we all know, rejection of goods is costly.
  • If you are air-freighting goods and paying volumetric weight plastic pallets should definitely be considered – you can save hundreds of pounds per year by switching.
  • If you have light duty, short-term storage requirements where the pallet is also being sent out the door, nestable plastic pallets with clip-on runners are a great competitor to the traditional wooden pallet.
  • With our distribution pallet, this is designed to be used in a closed-loop system where you can cut transport costs on the return journey because of the nesting capability of the pallet.
  • If space is an issue, use nestable plastic pallets. Because of the nesting capability of the nestable plastic pallets, you can fit 70-euro size in one pallet space, where you would only be able to fit 18 wooden pallets.

Should I Use Heavier Duty Plastic Pallets?

  • If you have an automated system where wooden pallets are causing issues due to inconsistency in size and strength, and dust and dirt falling off the pallet, heavier duty plastic should be considered.
  • If you have a long-term storage application or a return packaging system, you should use heavy-duty plastic pallets, as they will last up to 10x longer than wood.
  • If you are exporting high-value goods to countries outside the EU, as plastic pallets are exempt from ISPM15 regs.
  • If you have a hygiene sensitive application, as plastic pallets are cleaner and can be cleaned.

Check out the full range of plastic pallets here at Exporta for more options. You can shop pallets by use to find the exact type suited to your industry needs.

Do you have a further question or enquiry? Contact our experts, who are always on hand to help.

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