When the IKEA paper pallet shift was made, the retailer announced that it would be utilizing paper pallets and loading ledges for its unit load base requirements. Predictably, paper pallets would subsequently be getting a closer look from other potential users. (Paper pallets include a variety of corrugated, honeycomb, solid fiberboard or molded pulp products.)
In the case of IKEA, which reportedly uses 10 million pallets per year, the key benefits cited by them included:
- Easy customization of pallet footprint to fit the unit load, to increase load capacity in the export container
- Low profile design possible, again geared to reduce cube utilization while in shipment
- ISPM-15 exemption for international shipments
- Easily baled at retail outlets, thereby avoiding the freight of transporting empty pallets
IKEA believes it will avoid 140 million euros annually in freight charges due to the switch.
So what else is it that makes paper pallets interesting? These benefits include:
- Much lighter than wood pallets, beneficial to air freight weight reduction and ergonomics
- Clean and dust free,
- Eliminates the need for slip sheet
- No nails or wood splinters
- No mold
- No fire retardants
- Price that can be comparable to wood pallets
On the other hand:
- ISPM-15 compliant wood pallets can be cheaper
- Paper pallets do not match strength and stiffness of comparable timber pallets (in order to rack them, IKEA had to upgrade their warehouse racking to fully support them
- Not durable
- Susceptible to failure due to moisture (unless coating added)
- In spite of very high recycled content rates, logistics savings accruing from lighter weight and reduced reverse logistics requirements, the environmental case for corrugated pallets is debatable. The carbon footprint problem with corrugated pallets is largely attributable to corrugated manufacturing, as material must be processed for each pallet trip. For long distance applications such as export, however, corrugated pallets can be an attractive solution in terms of cost and environmental impact.
Paper pallets continue to evolve, as new designs result in better performing paper pallets, and new water resistant coatings help with moisture while not impeding recyclability. For example, Green Ox Pallet Technology recently launched an in-line or point-of-use corrugated pallet assembly machine. Such a system means a reduction of inbound freight and pallet storage, as pallet material is received in sheet form. In terms of water-resistant paper pallets, Ox Box utilizes a water-resistant biodegradable corrugated material that can provide corrugated performance as well as water resistance.