Wood vs plastic pallets: which is right for your application?

By |2018-02-13T10:32:14+00:00February 13th, 2018|Packaging Supplies|0 Comments

Wood pallets are the most common pallet material used in the US. With 80% of U.S. commerce being transported by pallet, it’s easy to see how pallets are such a pivotal part of successful shipping operations.

And while wooden pallets are quite common, many industries are using plastic pallets due to the nature of their industry.  Below are some tips for choosing between plastic pallets or wood pallets.
Standard stringer pallet - Axis Packaging

Wood Pallets

Wood pallets are recyclable, repairable, economically priced, and generally used to support higher weight capacities.  On the other hand, based on the nature of the materials used to manufacture wood pallets, they give off moisture, splinter, conceal bugs, and contain fasteners that may potentially damage fragile items.

Wood pallets are the most common type of pallet used in shipping, and they work well in most applications. Wood tends to be a better choice for custom pallets, as they are more economical for customization.

Plastic Pallets

On the other side of our comparison are plastic pallets.  Plastic pallets are favorable options in many applications due to their durability, cleanliness, and weather resistance.  They offer the benefit of being bug-free and fastener free.  While these are fantastic pros, plastic pallets tend to be more costly, and not as easily repaired.  They are also not as stiff, and therefore cannot hold as much weight as a wood pallet.

Which pallet do I need?

So how do you go about deciding which material is best for your application?  We’ve outlined a few questions for consideration as you weigh your options.

  1. What is your industry?  If you work in a closed-loop type of warehouse where your pallets are returned to you, plastic pallets may offer an economical solution.  Examples of industries commonly using plastic pallets include the pharmaceutical and automotive industries.
  2. How much weight are you shipping?  If your product weighs 1,500 pounds or less, the plastic pallet would work.  However, if your product weighs between 1,500 and 3,000 pounds, consider wood pallets.
  3. Do you expect any adverse weather conditions throughout transit?  Plastic pallets by nature tend to last longer.  However, if they’re damaged, in most cases they cannot be repaired.  Conversely, wood pallets offer repair and recycling options.
  4. What type of product are you shipping?   One precaution to consider is that of exposed fasteners found in wood pallets.  If your product is fragile, you’ll want to take this point into consideration.
  5. Will your pallet serve more than one purpose? In some industries, the same pallet used for shipping is also used as the display as well.  For that reason, some manufacturers opt for plastic instead of wood.
  6. Get familiar with your local and national fire codes. Did you know that plastic pallets emit approximately three times more heat as they burn? Check the standards for your state to review the protocols for storing and using plastic pallets.  
  7. Finally, familiarize yourself with export rules, specifically ISPM15. ISPM 15 outlines the protocols necessary to reduce the risk and spread of pests that result from the usage of  Wood Packaging Material (WPM).

If this list leaves you with more questions regarding your specific application, then don’t worry, we’re here to help. As members of the #NWPCA, we have in-house pallet and crate specialists that can guide you every step of the way. Learn more about our pallet and crate offerings and give us a call at 877-410-5564 to get started down the path of awesomeness with your pallet program.

We help companies find cost savings every day when it comes to stock and custom pallets. Let us do the same for you.

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