Wood pallet recycling is the process of sorting, refurbishing, dismantling and re-manufacturing these products, as well as the grinding of wood pallets and pallet components for use in fiber-based products. Pallet recycling can be considered a component within the broader arena of wood recycling. The activity of wood pallet recycling aids in diverting wood waste from landfills, as well as helping to extend the life of pallets and providing refurbished pallets at lower prices than new pallets. Pallet recycling is a multi-billion dollar sector of the pallet industry in the United States.
The Need for Wood Pallet Recycling
The urgency for wood pallet recycling, as for the recycling of other materials, is centered on both environmental and economic considerations. In terms of environmental benefits, the recycling of wood pallets helps divert them from landfills. Wood waste constituted 6.4 percent of municipal wood waste generation in 2010, and increasingly landfills are banning wood waste. From the economic perspective, the wood pallet recycling industry adds value through the generation of inexpensive refurbished wood pallets to be sold back to industry, as well as the creation of other products such as mulch. The demand for pallet cores further benefits pallet users in terms of empty pallets quickly being removed from their facilities, and in some cases generating revenue from recyclers willing to pay for them, depending upon the type of pallet involved.
Commonly Recycled Pallets
Wood pallet recyclers tend to focus on the most popular-sized pallets, or on larger pallets that can be cut down and re-manufactured to pallets of a smaller size. In the U.S. the most common size or pallet footprint for recycling is the 48x40-inch pallet, as well as other popular sizes such as 40x40-inch, 42x42-inch, and 48x48-inch.pallet recycling industry history has been one of rapid growth over the last thirty years, and has become a rapidly growing segment of the pallet industry. As the pallet recycling industry has matured and quality has become more consistent, customer acceptance of recycled pallets has increased. Pallet users have gradually become comfortable making use of reconditioned pallets, which are often offered at a substantially better price than new pallets of similar quality. Additionally, pallet recyclers also perform a huge service to industry by removing empty pallets from accumulation points such as manufacturing plants and distribution centers.
Pallet Recycling Company Operations
Pallet recycling companies are often found close to cities or other locations such as distribution centers or manufacturing plants where excessive amount of unwanted empty pallets accumulate. Pallet recyclers may buy the empty pallets or “cores,” as the empty pallets are referred, from customers, or if they have little resale value because of unpopular size or other construction attributes, they may charge the customer to take away the empty pallets. Recycling companies may also purchase empty pallets from street vendors arriving with small truckloads of pallets they have accumulated from retail outlets or other small businesses.
Pallet recyclers utilize a variety of pallet recycling equipment such as forklifts, automated sorting lines, pallet dismantling equipment, de-stacking and stacking equipment, flippers, wood grinding systems and pneumatic nailing tools. Sophisticated pallet sorting lines may also use lift-assist equipment, and heat treatment chambers.
Products and Marketing
Wood pallet recyclers may sell their products directly, as well as through pallet brokers, who often source pallets for national-level customers from local pallet providers. In addition to common refurbished pallets of standard sizes such as 48x40-inch, some recyclers also benefit from producing custom-sized pallets from recovered material. Pallet recyclers may also offer pallet repair services for clients, as well as pallet management services. Relationship selling is a very useful approach for pallet sales.
The future of the wood pallet recycling business is uncertain, at least in its present form. The supply of 48x40-inch pallets that can be purchased, refurbished and resold continues to diminish as fewer new pallets enter the common 48x40-inch pallet pool. Of the pallets available, quality of available pallet cores is generally thought to be decreasing. This reduction can be attributed to the increased usage of rental pallets, as well as plastic closed loop pallets.