The pallet market is predicted to be worth $51.6 billion dollars by 2017 with 5.1 billion produced, a 5 per cent increase on 2014 figures. By 2017, it is estimated one in ten pallets sold will be made from plastic, making this the biggest growth sector.*
Dale Paterson, Group Managing Director of plastic pallet specialist Exporta Global, believes this is a trend that is set to continue as myths that surround plastic pallets are gradually debunked.
Pallets are not one of the most glamorous items for most companies and some may treat them as an afterthought, automatically specifying what they have always specified – usually wood – without realising there might be a more cost effective option.
Plastic pallets won’t be the right choice in every circumstance, but many companies are now recognising their benefits.
A major reason for this is a realisation that, although the initial unit costs might be higher, there can be overall cost savings.
On a simple measure of durability, plastic pallets can last up to ten years, ten times longer than wooden pallets. This can have significant lifetime savings in closed systems where pallets are returned.
Recognising there is an issue in systems where pallets are not returned, most pallet suppliers’ offer reduced cost plastic pallets for one-way trips.
Exporters in particular can benefit from reduced freight costs, as plastics are much lighter than wood, particularly important given air freight transport costs are based on weight. This can save as much as £40 per equivalent load bearing pallet.
Lighter means easier to handle, but this does not impact on the ability to carry heavy loads. Indeed, the mould-based production process ensures consistent strength and capacity.
With over 70 varieties of plastic pallets to choose from it is crucial that you purchase the right pallet for an application to maximise the cost benefits. Getting the right advice can be key when faced with a choice of rackable, nestable, semi-nesting, anti-slip, smooth deck, smooth deck hygiene, closed deck, heavy duty, lightweight, boxed container, Euro, 3 runner, 5 runner and/or display.
Another major advantage for exporters is that plastic pallets are exempt from International Standards for Phytosanitary Measures 15 (ISPM15) which require wooden pallets or any wood packaging greater than 6mm to be heat treated or fumigated to avoid bug infestation. Checks to ensure wooden pallets meet the measures can add time and cost during customs processes when exporting to countries such as Australia.
In addition to exporters, there are a number of industry sectors driving the use of plastic pallets. These include the pharmaceutical, food, beverage, automotive and electronics sectors which want benefits in improved hygiene, avoidance of contamination and chemical/moisture resistance when compared with wood.
Companies transporting fragile materials can benefit from the greater protection offered by using plastic pallets in combination with plastic collars, avoiding the fasteners used on wooden pallets which can damage products.
As a result, some insurance companies offer discounts when using plastic.
A specific myth about plastic pallets is that they are less environmentally friendly than wood, but today not only are most plastic pallets made from recycled materials, but 100 per cent are recoverable.
As such plastic can benefit companies seeking to reinforce their environmental credentials.
The ability to repel water means they can be the best option when pallets are exposed to outdoor conditions for prolonged periods – particularly when compared to wood that can shrink or warp. In addition, they can be more easily cleaned, useful when pallets are used to display products.
For many other companies it is simply a staff safety issue as introducing plastic removes the dangers associated with sharp edges, splinters and exposed nails.
Although wood will continue to dominate the industry, plastic pallets will grow in popularity as their advantages become more widely recognised.
Exporta Global offers a free pallet analysis to review cost benefits – visit www.exportaglobal.co.uk
*Source: the Freedonia Group 2014