As we described in this article, uncertainty in the world of lumber is driving prices up. Consequently, companies that use a lot of wood products are considering alternatives. One of the most commonly used wood products is the pallet. There are many materials used to make pallets, but the two most popular are wood and plastic. Since the biggest reason most companies choose wood over plastic is cost, let’s look at all of the pros and cons of each.
Cost – Wood will still be cheaper than plastic, but the margin will depend on how the rest of the year shakes out. The cost factor doesn’t only apply to making pallets, however; it applies to repairing them, too.
Repair – The cost-efficiency of repairing wood pallets hinges on how easy it is to do. Simply replace the board that is damaged.
Recycling – Wood pallets can be made from recycled materials, and when it’s no longer useful, be recycled back into paper or mulch.
Durable – Even with cheaper materials, wood pallets are quite robust. That isn’t to say that plastic pallets aren’t also durable, but the cheaper you go on plastic materials, the more likely it is to break. Wood tends to hold more weight.
Quick and Easy – Wood pallets are fairly simple to manufacture, and therefore can be done so quickly. If you need a lot of them, you’ll get wood ones fastest.
Friction – If there is any concern that your product will be damaged if your pallet slips or slides during transit, wood is going to be your safest bet.
Integrity – Since wood is an organic material, it can’t hold up against certain conditions or elements. Wood warps, weakens, and splinters, especially when exposed to moisture.
Cleanliness – You can’t safely clean a wooden pallet. Chemicals, water, grease, or anything similar is going to change it for the worst.
Mold and Bacteria – Being a natural substance, if wood gets wet, it can breed mold and bacteria. As mentioned, you can’t clean it; once either grows on wood, it’s there to stay.
Long-lasting – Because plastic does stand up to the elements and organic growth, it tends to last a long time. Reusability is a major factor with plastic pallets.
Lightweight – Plastic is roughly 30-35% lighter than wood. This is especially significant if you’re shipping a lot of heavy cargo. Your cost of shipping will be drastically less with plastic.
Easy to Clean – Unlike wood, plastic is very easy to clean. Contact with most substances won’t affect the integrity of the material.
Convenience – In addition to never worrying about splinters or unsafe handling, plastic is also not subject to the regulations that wood is.
Recycling – Yes, plastic is recyclable, but it is not as eco-friendly a process, and it is much more difficult than recycling wood.
Friction – Plastic slides easily, especially on steel beds and floors – or stacked on top of each other.
Repairs – While plastic stands up better to its environment, if damage does occur, it isn’t a simple process to repair it. You’re likely going to have to replace the pallet with a new one.
Overall, if the price of lumber is forcing you to consider your options, the major factors will be these:
- Whether reduced shipping weight will make up for the cost of plastic
- Whether environmental concerns will affect longevity/reusability and therefore the long-term cost of wood vs plastic
- Whether repairs are a concern
If you need pallets or have questions about your options, contact Packnet. We prioritize your best interests and will give you a realistic picture of what to expect long-term amongst your choices. We offer a variety of materials and styles. Connect with us: 952-944-9124 or request a free assessment.