Op-Ed by Willy Lutz, managing director of Logistics Arts Production and Paletten Service Lutz GmbH. Op-Ed views are those of the author.
The globalized economy’s hunger for pallets is insatiable, even in a decade of multiple crises. Four billion pallets are in use in Europe, and a good 500 million are produced yearly, of which 300 million are disposable pallets. While the European Union wants to reduce packaging waste, especially plastic waste, with the Packaging Act and the Federal Republic’s additional special levy on disposable plastics, the share of disposables in the most important transport unit is constantly increasing.
This is not only an economically wrong path but also an irresponsible use of the wood resources and the forests that better serve as a habitat and CO2 storage. There has long been a technology for producing reusable recycling pallets from plastic packaging together with waste wood and other material flows.
Benefits of the approach
The benefits of the technology are evident: recycling waste wood binds CO2 in the long term. Recycling and the IT-supported circular system reduce the need for wood. Mixed plastics and other secondary raw materials can be used without an energy, cost and time-consuming processing process. The recycled reusable pallet reduces wood consumption and increases the recycling rate of wood and plastic and saves costs. The production costs are significantly cheaper than a conventional pressboard disposable pallet with comparable technical properties. Transport and logistics companies, manufacturers and retailers benefit from this.
A completely circular concept
Our start-up doesn’t just want to stick with a patented production process but has developed a completely circular concept. Used reusable recycling pallets and secondary raw materials are traded on an internet portal, but defective pallets or material flows are also offered for processing. An RFID chip integrated into the pallet tracks the location, material and recipe status of the pallet, thereby optimizing logistics and other processes.
On average, Europe generates almost 180 kilograms of packaging waste per person per year. Forty percent of plastics and 50 percent of paper are processed into packaging materials in the EU.
Even if, according to the Federal Environment Agency (UBA), in 2022, the dual systems, on average, achieved the legal targets for the recycling of packaging and, in some cases even significantly exceeded them, and the material recycling rate for plastic packaging was 67.5 percent, this is only one Part of the truth. The other is that after a long process, just 13.7 percent is recycled as recyclate. This is the number given by the Conversio study by the leading associations in the plastics processing industry. We have developed a process in which plastic can be recycled at an early stage of processing. This saves energy and costs and reduces CO2 emissions.
In Germany, six million cubic meters of wood are processed into pallets and transport packaging. This corresponds to a quarter of the logging. Most disposable pallets end up in the waste container at the first recipient. The trend towards wooden buildings, the construction industry recovering in 2025, disposable consumer behavior, the growing population and, last but not least, the economic sanctions against wood-supplying countries lead to the expectation that the raw material wood will become more scarce and more expensive again.
In addition to waste wood in categories A1 and A2, the recycling reusable pallet can also contain waste wood in category A3 and non-separable secondary raw materials such as paper, paper composites/food lightweight packaging, composites from beverage packaging, glass fiber reinforced plastics, PEX plastics, but also unused nonwovens from masks, be used. Alternatively, many natural and synthetic fibers, textiles and almost all duoplastics and thermoplastics can be processed.
To find out more, visit https://www.lap.gmbh/de.
Willy Lutz is managing director of Paletten Service Lutz GmbH, Altensteig. The company with 15 employees trades, rents, repairs and exchanges reusable and disposable pallets made of wood, plastic and other transport containers. He is the founder and managing partner of Logistics Arts Production GmbH and Logistics Arts GmbH. Willy Lutz holds utility models and patents and is involved in several associations such as the German Inventors Association and the Association of Family Businesses.
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