Comment from Jim Hardisty, Managing Director of

We’ve come a long way since 1924 and the invention of Howard T. Hallowell’s simple skid pallet. In particular, innovations in the plastic pallet industry in the last 10 years have been plentiful, with pallets being created in an increasing number of sizes, weights and styles for use in a growing number of applications.

With every year comes a new challenge and looking ahead to 2012, two major factors I foresee influencing the pallet industry are biomass demand and carbon reduction targets.

Historically, wooden pallets have always been cheaper than plastic, but rising timber costs could change that. According to a recent article published in The Sunday Times, the government’s drive for more biomass plants is driving up the price of wood. Subsidies have been introduced that reward power firms for burning biomass, including wood. As a result, the price of British-grown timber has risen in five years from £30 to £50 per tonne, and the Department of Energy and Climate Change has forecast that biomass demand could push up the price of wood to £114 a tonne in the near to medium term.

The rising price of timber has already had a knock-on effect on the cost of wooden pallets with customers refusing to buy new ones and could also affect availability in 2012 if biomass escalates at the rate predicted. This will only reduce the pool of good quality wooden pallets in circulation.

According to The Carbon Disclosure Project 2011 Supply Chain Report produced by management consultants A.T. Kearney, more than 50% of large businesses and 25% of their suppliers have made cost savings as a result of carbon management activities.

As the number of customers seeking goods and services from environmentally responsible suppliers increases, it’s likely that more and more companies will take action to reduce their carbon footprint. Using reusable returnable packaging systems, like plastic pallets, can help businesses cut costs and improve their environmental performance.

For example, in a closed-loop scenario, with normal handling and loading within design limits, plastic pallets and containers have a life span of up to ten years or more. In comparison to wooden alternatives, plastic pallets and containers can last up to ten times longer, and at the end of their long working life they can be recycled.

Another major advantage of plastic pallets and containers is that versions are available that nest, which can save considerable space in storage and save transportation and escalating fuel costs.

There are approximately 70 million pallets in circulation in the UK, around 90 percent are made from wood – but by educating companies about the many benefits of plastic pallets, in addition to the cost and carbon reduction savings that can be achieved, the decision to buy plastic should become an easy one.

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