Wood Pallets vs. Plastic Pallets: Determine Your Needs

For any company that ships products, pallets are an essential resource for moving materials safely and efficiently. In the past, deciding what type of pallets to use was a relatively easy decision as over 90% of the world’s pallet supply has been strictly wood based. However, shippers are no longer restricted to wood-based pallets with newer materials being introduced into the mix to accommodate needs that have gone unmet for years. Choosing between wood, plastic, metal, and other material is an important decision to ensure freight is moved in a safe and efficient manner. 

 

With each pallet material having advantages and disadvantages, we will focus on the two main pallet materials in consideration:

 

Wood pallets (industry leader at 90% usage)

Plastic pallets (4%-5% of pallets used, but growing and becoming more common)

 

Wood Pallets

Advantages:

Lowest Cost

Easy to Repair

Recyclable

Customized and constructed quickly

Greater traction so products do not slide or shift as much

More eco-friendly

 

Disadvantages:

Weakens and warps

Less safe to handle due to nails, screws, and splinters.

Needs to be replaced more often

Unable to be cleaned

Wood encourages bacterial growth when wet

Wood must be treated when shipping internationally

 

Plastic Pallets

Advantages:

Safer to handle with no nails or splinters

Extremely durable resulting in long-term cost value

Safe in damp and moist environments

Has the ability to be cleaned easily

Lighter weight than wood (reduction in shipping costs)

Recyclable

No need for treatment internationally

Disadvantages:

Higher cost

Must be replaced if damaged

Less traction so products slide and shift more

Cannot hold as much weight as wood pallets

Less eco-friendly 

All of these elements need to be taken into consideration when planning your supply-chain and weighing how the specific advantages and disadvantages of each element could affect your company. For example, those operating in a closed-loop supply chain, in the food industry, would find that durable and long lasting plastic pallets would be most effective since being both reused multiple times and easy to clean. The opposite is the case for an open-loop supply chain, in the manufacturing industry, where inexpensive, yet, strong wood pallets would make more sense. Each industry and company has it’s own standards and needs, and making these strategic decisions can significantly affect cost, damages, productivity, and customer satisfaction.