Editor’s note: Do you have pallets that need to be removed? People looking for free pallets have posted their contact information in the comment section below.
Wondering where to find free or low-cost pallets? I often receive inquiries about where to find such pallets to start a home craft project or more steady sources of used pallets to generate work as a pallet street vendor or a pallet recycling business. Pallets available at no cost typically include unusual sizes, small qualities, or ones that are otherwise undesirable due to poor condition or appearance.
But first things first. Before you think about collecting and working with old pallets, make sure you take the necessary safety precautions. A recent study reports on injuries associated with home pallet usage.
The world went through a pallet shortage in 2021-2022, as I outlined in this article: As World Faces Pallet Shortage, Free Pallets For Hobbyists May Be Harder to Find. The good news, however, is that there is currently a much more bountiful supply of used pallets, and that availability should be considerably better than it was just a year ago.
Ten Places to Find Free Pallets for Hobbyists/Crafters
Free pallets can be found in a great variety of places where pallets are emptied or where they are disposed of. Once you become mindful of pallets, whether you see them being unloaded at a location or being set outside to rest against a wall, the possibility of securing a supply begins to emerge. Empty pallets might be the end result of a regular delivery cycle, such as the scheduled consignment to a feed and tack store, so once you develop a pattern, you can keep returning to the same location on the day they typically are available.
Unlikea scheduled delivery cycle, however, there are also “one-off” palletized deliveries that result in unwanted empty pallets. For those ones, it may come down to being in the right place at the right time. The best pallets are in new condition, with clean, dry wood. Pallets that have been used several times can be soiled and stained. They are more likely to harbor bacteria and thus are less attractive to the pallet hobbyist. For a pallet enthusiast looking for a weathered appearance, however, the latter just might be perfect. Here is our list of sources for free, clean pallets:
- Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist
- Bars and craft beer locations
- Pet food stores
- Feed & Tack stores
- Stationery shops
- Furniture stores
- Liquor stores
- Flooring stores
- Other small retail
- Construction sites
Free Pallets: Ask Before Taking
Where only small quantities are available, or where the pallets are not one of the popular sizes such as 48×40”, then pallets are more likely to be happily released at no charge to the collector. It should be cautioned that pallets stored outside of a small business are not necessarily “free for the taking.” The pallet collector should receive permission from the business owner before removing pallets. Once you have established a relationship with the proprietor, however, the pallet enthusiast may often be given blanket permission to come by and pick up empty pallets.
One cautionary note is the issue of pallet markings. If the pallet has an ownership stamp on it, such as CHEP, PECO, iGPS, Coca-Cola, U.S. Postal Service, or others, these pallets should not be removed. Such organizations claim to vigorously enforce the property rights to their pallets, and you may find yourself charged with unlawful possession of them. Also of concern are issues of contamination and safe handling. Please refer to the links immediately below to explore further.
Purchasing Used Pallets
In addition to finding old pallets, they may also be purchased – typically online. The Home Depot offers recycled pallets and disassembled recycled pallet kits, while pallet wood is also available on sites such as Etsy, Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist. Another business offers old pallet wood to customers in South Carolina. In 2020, I reported on two pallet companies that offer reclaimed pallet lumber in this article.
Commercial Pallet Collection
Larger quantities of standard-sized 48×40″ pallets or other popular sizes often command a price. Small quantities of empty pallets are often picked up by pallet street vendors, commonly referred to as pallet pickers, who, in turn, typically sell them to pallet recycling companies.
Larger pallet recycling companies provide regular pickup or dock sweep services to businesses such as distribution centers or manufacturing facilities that regularly generate large quantities of empty pallets. Larger generators of surplus pallet cores often have an expectation of being paid for them and may have an exclusive arrangement in place with a recycling company. You will soon get an idea of what prevailing market prices are for cores in your area, and these vary from region to region, depending upon supply and demand. The Recycle Record is a market report that provides regional information about recycled pallet pricing.
In addition to price, pallet recyclers may also compete for cores with respect to service. The pallet recycler may be required to drop empty trailers for the business to load as it generates empty pallets or to provide smaller quantity pickup if the business does not have the room or a dock door to facilitate storage of empty pallets inside the building or on a drop trailer. For picking up smaller pallet quantities, pallet street vendors may use flatbed or pickup trucks and sometimes utility trailers.
Be sure to practice pallet handling safety. Use gloves to protect hands from slivers, and use proper lifting techniques, including keeping the pallet close to the torso and back straight. Because pallets can often weigh 60 pounds or more, utilize the help of other individuals or lift equipment such as forklifts where available.