Pallets play a critical role in material handling, shipping, and storage aspects of businesses across the globe.
In fact, according to The Balance, the evolution of pallets “has been integral to the development of modern logistics,” changing supply chains and influencing the way that we do business.
A pallet may sound like a simple thing, but in reality, pallets can make or break your business.
This is why it is important to choose a durable and cost-effective pallet that will make your workplace more efficient and profitable.
In this article, we discuss all things pallets, including the ins and outs of wood, metal and cardboard pallets and why plastic pallets may be the best choice for your business.
Plastic pallets are the way of the future
If you are looking for an innovative and cost-effective alternative to traditional wooden, metal, and cardboard pallets, plastic pallets may be the perfect solution to your material handling needs.
Benefits of plastic pallets
Unlike other types of pallets, quality plastic pallets are crafted with an innovative cross-ribbed design that evenly distributes weight for durability and strength.
Thanks to this sturdy design without seams or weak points, the strongest plastic pallets on the market can hold up to 3,500 pounds without breaking.
Safe alternative to wood
When wood pallets break (and they often do!), the resulting splintered wood and nails often contaminate both the work environment and the product.
Hazardous materials that create slip and trip risks in your workspace are a liability that can easily be avoided by switching to durable plastic alternatives.
While wooden and cardboard pallets are often “one-and-done” in functionality, cross-ribbed plastic pallets can be used repeatedly without wear and tear.
The multi-use functionality of plastic pallets ensures that you and your business get your money’s worth instead of running out to purchase new pallets on a weekly or monthly basis.
Despite their strong design, plastic pallets are also relatively light, typically weighing 30 percent less than their wood counterparts.
In fact, the heaviest models on the market (that hold up to 3,500 pounds) only weigh 55 pounds.
This results in cheaper shipping costs and easier maneuverability.
The innovative design of quality plastic pallets also incorporates angled, rounded legs which guide the fork tines into place when being used by a forklift.
This unique design reduces damage issues that are common with wooden and cardboard pallets by allowing the fork tines to deflect off the leg instead of breaking or cutting into the pallet.
Plastic pallets can also include rounded, reinforced corners and 4-way entry for handling ease.
Although they are non-rackable, plastic pallets often come with an optional stacking lip feature on the long side.
This makes them easy to stack and transport, while also preventing product slippage when they are in use.
Easy to clean
Unlike wooden and cardboard pallets, which are difficult to clean and cannot be exposed to moisture and chemicals, plastic pallets are extremely easy to clean and sanitize using a variety of techniques including steam cleaning, hot washing, and chemical sanitizing.
Plastic pallets are also designed with a smooth, flat top that aids in the cleaning process — a critical feature when working in a warehouse environment.
Environment & Budget Friendly
Due to their durable, reusable nature, plastic pallets are also an environmentally friendly option that will save money for your business in the long run.
Thanks to the cutting-edge engineering of plastic pallets, they can last for hundreds of uses, making them a cost-effective investment that pays off over time.
Plastic pallets that are crafted from 100% virgin grade plastic, are also recyclable, eliminating disposal fees and making them an environmentally-friendly choice.
A Time & Place for Every Pallet
Through the years there has always been a time and place for every pallet.
From wood to metal to cardboard; each one has played its part in the necessary application.
In reviewing these different uses you will find what type of pallets work best for you.
If you have worked with wood pallets, you are most likely familiar with their many pros and cons when it comes to material handling.
But, as a refresher as to what they are, or for those who do not know, we will cover them in this section.
The pros of wood pallets
Making up approximately 60 percent of all wooden containers that are produced within the United States, wooden pallets are extremely common in many industries.
This popularity is due to several key advantages of wood pallets, which include:
- Ease of manufacturing process
- Having high friction compared to metal and plastic pallets
- Recyclable nature
The cons of wood pallets
Although they are commonly used in many industries, pallets crafted from wood have many drawbacks — especially in the food handling and pharmaceutical industries where safety is a critical part of daily operations.
Because of these many cons, alternative pallet materials such as plastic and metal are quickly increasing in popularity.
Some of the downsides of wooden pallets include:
Wood pallets are not durable and tend to break and splinter easily when put under pressure.
This can lead to product contamination and hazardous working conditions that can quickly become a liability.
Not forklift compatible
Due to their lack of durability, wooden pallets do not work well in warehouse environments with forklifts, where they can be easily damaged.
Difficult to keep clean
Wooden pallets are also notoriously difficult to clean and are susceptible to fungus and bacteria growth when exposed to moisture.
This is especially an issue in facilities that handle food and medicine.
For those who have previously worked with metal pallets, it is probably apparent that their main benefit is extreme strength and durability due to their construction from aluminum or steel.
This makes metal pallets ideal for use in applications that need a durable and protective pallet, such as the transport of military ammunition and other heavy machinery.
Due to their durable nature, metal pallets are also an excellent option for use in outdoor storage and at-sea storage.
However, strength is not the only benefit of metal pallets.
Some of the other benefits of metal pallets include that they are:
- Easy to clean and sanitize
- Do not attract dust and dirt
- Do not attract pests
- Recyclable and environmentally friendly
Because of their easy-to-clean quality as well as resistance to dirt, pests, and other potential contaminants, metal pallets are also very popular in the catering and restaurant industries.
When it comes to the disadvantages of metal pallets a few considerations to keep in mind include that they are:
- More expensive than other options
- Much heavier than pallets manufactured from plastic, wood, or cardboard
- Prone to rust and corrosion
The weight of metal pallets manufactured from steel is probably the most important drawback to keep in mind when considering purchasing metal pallets as this can make them much more expensive to use for shipping purposes and much more difficult to maneuver in warehouse settings.
However, aluminum offers a lighter alternative if you are planning to stick with a metal pallet for shipping.
The pros and cons of cardboard pallets
Although they may sound like an ineffective option, cardboard pallets are actually quite popular.
In fact, home manufacturing giant IKEA chooses cardboard as their pallet of choice in most instances.
Since they are not as common as wood or plastic pallets, you may not have worked with cardboard pallets in the past, so here is a rundown of both the pros and cons of cardboard pallets.
Some of the many benefits of cardboard pallets include that they are:
- Easy to clean
- Do not contain nails, splinters and other potentially dangerous hardware
- Easy to break down and dispose of
- ISPM 15 compliant
The fact that cardboard pallets are ISPM 15 compliant is one of their main advantages, making them ideal for international shipping, unlike wood pallets, which can potentially transport insects and diseases across international borders.
As for the disadvantages, you probably guessed their main disadvantage, which is that they are not durable or long-lasting, limiting their use.
Other drawbacks of cardboard pallets include that they:
- Are susceptible to moisture damage
- Cannot be cleaned or sanitized
- Are typically single use due to lack of durability
- Cannot handle heavy loads
The benefits of plastic pallets for quality control
If you are in food processing, pharmaceuticals, or another industry with strict quality control standards, you know how difficult it can be to find material handling products that comply with USDA and FDA regulations.
This is especially true when it comes to wooden pallets that are manufactured with nails and other metal hardware that can easily compromise your safety standards and pose the risk of contaminating your products.
In this section, we discuss why plastic pallets with no hardware are ideal for use in industries where quality control is central to your daily operations.
Manufactured from USDA + FDA approved materials
One of the main benefits of plastic pallets for use in pharmaceuticals, food processing, and similar industries is that they can be manufactured using USDA and FDA-approved polyethylene.
This 100% virgin-grade plastic means your business can enjoy the many benefits of plastic pallets, without compromising on quality control regulations.
Pallets with No Hardware = No Risky Metal Parts
The seamless one-piece design of plastic pallets eliminates the need for the metal hardware found on wooden pallets, making plastic pallets an excellent choice for companies that plan to use them as a part of their food or drug manufacturing process.
By eliminating the use of metal, your company will have one less thing to worry about when it comes to adhering to strict government regulations.
Durable construction reduces the risk of contamination from damage
As discussed, plastic pallets are also extremely durable, unlike wood pallets which easily splinter and crack.
This durability is critical for ensuring quality control and safety, as it greatly reduces the risk of your product (or workspace) being contaminated with splinters from wood pallets.
Plastic pallets eliminate the risk of bacteria and fungus
Since wood is highly susceptible to fungus and bacteria growth, plastic pallets are a much better option for food processing and pharmaceutical manufacturing.
Simply switching to plastic will greatly reduce your risk of contamination of your product in the workplace.
If you are in a material handling industry, making the switch to plastic pallets is a quick and easy way to improve your business operations.
This simple upgrade may seem like a small step, but it can impact everything from your budget to workplace efficiency, to reduced risk of liability — ultimately improving your bottom line.