Why buy plastic pallets? While wood pallets dominate the North American market to the tune of 95% or more of market share, plastic, wood composite, paper and metal all have their place in the right application.
After wood, plastic is the next most common material used for pallet production. Oftentimes the purchase price of plastic pallets is mentioned as a barrier to adoption, although on a cost-per-trip basis, there can be considerable savings associated with going to durable plastic pallets as long as they are successfully recovered. The mix of a higher purchase price in conjunction with supply chains where retrieval is very costly or ineffective, however, can pose a substantial hurdle to implementation, and result in an unattractively high cost per trip. Where multiple stakeholders are involved in a supply chain pallet application, developing a collaborative approach may be critical to acceptance.
Photo source: NLP
Here are some of the major benefits attributed to plastic pallets:
- Dimensionally consistent sizing aids performance in advanced material handling systems.
- There are no protruding fasteners or slivers to hang up in material handling systems, cause injury, create product damage or to scrape retail floors.
- Inexpensive models are available for light-duty applications such as for export pallets. They are ISPM-15 exempt for international shipment, eliminating the risk of shipments being detained at international ports of entry.
- Plastic pallets not absorb liquid, and can be easy to wash. Plastic pallets are becoming increasingly popular as companies look to enhance their food safety programs
- Extremely durable models can provide a very low cost per trip over a long pallet lifetime. For example, the NLP pallet pool in Norway has a loss/replacement rate of only 0.2% per trip. DPB in the Netherlands saw its pallet replacement fall from 25% with wood pallets to 5% annually after shifting to plastic pallets.
- Plastic pallets can be available in different pallet colors to aid in branding, control or facility appearance when sourced from virgin material.
- Plastic pallets designed for nesting can save space for empty pallet storage at facilities as well as in transport. For example, one bakery eliminated 253 loads of empty pallet returns per year because it only required one-third of the space of double-faced pallets.
- Plastic pallets may be edge rackable or stackable.
- They do not generate wood chips which can damage the tires of material handling equipment, as well as creating slip and trip hazards.
- Some models have a significant weight advantage over pallets made of other materials.
- Plastic pallets can have RFID tags or other IoT sensors embedded.
- They are readily recycled locally, or when returned to pallet suppliers. Vendors often have buyback programs for their own products and may take back plastic pallets from other vendors as well.