Time was when the pallet industry was far less concerning than it is today. There was hardly ever any concern about environmental issues and so little thought was given to recyclable, returnable issues. Today, however, the key mantra is re-use, recycle, repeat and it can be so complex and distracting from one’s core competences it might be wiser to contract out this formidable task to specialists, be it pooling, renting or buying. But as one specialist in this area explains (see Contraload story) it’s much more than just collecting and returning the load mediums like pallets, boxes, collars and layer pads. There is the necessary high quality “conditioning” services before assets can be returned to ultra-hygienic clients in the food and pharma industries. And if the latest tracking technology for asset management, that might span several countries, is not in place that could be problematic.
This article was first published in the December 15th 2019 issue of Warehouse & Logistics News, subscribe to the magazine by clicking here.
Amid all the controversy over which pallet materials to use for environmental reasons there is often more heat than light but the harsh fact remains that there are non-environmental issues that will hold greater sway in the decision-making for choice of material, some being economical and practical. Plastics, for example, now the bete noire of the environmental movement, are better than wood at keeping weight and fuel emissions down and contribute significantly to minimising food waste with the help of advanced plastic films. So the enemy is not plastic per se but plastic waste. Therefore it is imperative to use specialists in plastic recycling like Goplasticpallets.
One needs also to consider how much resources and energy are used in the recycling function. Paper production, for example, uses 17 times more water than plastic, while recycling paper requires 91% more energy than plastic kilo for kilo. Plastic pallets also last 10 times longer than wood and are safer to use and generally more dimensionally accurate, particularly valued in automated warehouses. As Jim Hardisty, MD of Goplasticpallets.com, advises: “We should not be looking for ways to replace plastic, but rather educating manufacturers, businesses and consumers about how plastics can be used responsibly to develop a circular economy.”
Pallite, makers of the burgeoning, lightweight yet strong paper-based packaging products such as pallets, pallet boxes, collars and layer pads, suggests that by changing your pallet choice you could gain a double win by saving money and the environment. Made from sustainably-resourced materials and 100% recyclable, they contribute less to climate change and the disappearance of the world’s rain forests than wood pallets and mean less CO2 emissions and total costs of business. Pallite’s CEO, Iain Hulmes, says there is a growing movement away from traditional wooden pallets towards alternatives like Pallite, but some of these alternatives come with limitations or drawbacks. The Pallite pallet saves 20 kg in weight compared with wood, are splinter free and ISPM15 exempt. They are also much cheaper than plastic.
There are other contenders, the best one, in certain circumstances, being the slip sheet, very much cheaper, lighter and bug free than wood and plastic pallets. Another palletless system, well suited to sacked materials like cement, is the Moellers’ system which uses stretchwrapping in such a way as to leave fork voids at the load base. There are also the recent developments in composite materials from RM2 Blocpal, which have big advantages over wood and plastic.
Bill Redmond, Features Editor