Concerns about the materials used to make pallets are probably not keeping logistics managers awake at night, but confusion over their hygiene and environmental sustainability are important considerations, says Jane Gorick, Managing Director of LPR UK.
“Recent articles in the logistics media have highlighted the relative pros and cons of using traditional wooden pallets versus their plastic rivals. And while there are no doubt advantages to using different pallet materials for specific applications, there are some misunderstandings in the market about the use of traditional pallets, especially in the food sector.
“Obviously, the issue of hygiene with timber pallets comes to the fore when considering the transportation of foodstuffs. And while many assume that plastic is preferable here, compared to wood, this is simply not the case. In fact, LPR works exclusively in the food and FMCG sectors, which means that our pallets cannot be contaminated by such products as compost or diesel oil. In reality all pallets need to be treated to prevent blue stain and as a minimum entry level, we request our wooden pallets are heat treated and where this is not possible manufacturers can use Sinesto B – a food grade preservative so safe you could literally eat your dinner off a treated pallet!
“While I can’t speak with certainty on behalf of other pallet pool operators, it is certainly the case that the use of contaminants to treat timber is outdated and is a process never operated by LPR.
“From an environmental perspective, wooden pallets continue to be the choice of responsible FMCG brands as many pallets are sourced from sustainable, managed forests that adhere to the highest standards. Indeed, LPR has become the first pallet pool operator to be accredited by the PEFC, an independent organisation dedicated to the promotion of sustainable forest management.
“Unlike their plastic rivals, wooden pallets are also able to be easily repaired if damaged, thus they remain within the supply chain for a lot longer. Once they are beyond repair (which is actually a very rare occurrence), they are recycled either as wood chippings or other reusable materials.
“The big issue for plastic pallets is the upfront manufacturing impact in terms of the power required and the petrochemical ingredients on their carbon footprint.
“Certainly, both wood and plastics have important roles to play within the expansive and diverse UK supply chain, but making snap decisions on the hygienic or sustainable credentials of one material over another can lead to dangerous misunderstandings.
“Supply chain managers need to examine each material based on real-life, industrial experience and fact, not well meaning assumptions about what is fit for purpose.”