Plastic pallets design: stackable or nestable pallets?

John Shawyer is Director of Associated Pallets.

There are many reasons why a business customer would choose a pallet made of plastic rather than wood.

• Synthetic materials are lighter than wood, in particular any form of engineered timber.
• Plastic pallets are cleaner to work with and provide some considerable long-term savings in operational costs for warehouses, material-handling businesses and other enterprises that use a form of pallet for storage and load shifting.
• They will weigh less than the equivalent wooden variety that handles the same load and so cause fewer back and shoulder injuries in the workplace.
• There are no nails or wood splinters and shavings that may cause safety, cleanliness and injury issues.
• A plastic pallet is resistant to mildew, mould and infestation. It does not have to be treated and certified as fit for export use as in the case of a wooden pallet.
• A plastic pallet is unlikely to be quarantined or delayed during export for health and safety reasons.
• A plastic pallet is impervious to acids, oils, fats solvents and many other chemicals that may be found or spilled in the workplace.

The plastic pallet is the standard load-shifting equipment for the pharmaceutical and food industries, where hygiene, safety and consistency are all important business issues. It may be either stackable or nestable depending on its design and function


A stackable pallet is a plastic pallet that has a solid platform on its base. This platform may be attached to it in different configurations, such as a picture frame, runners or a cross bar. This allows the pallet to double-stack above another one when empty. Some pallet designs allow for a large pallet to stack above a smaller one and vice versa. The stackable pallet is usually used in a high-stacking warehouse or one where racking has different rack configurations. The stacking can continue up to a calculated height that ensures that the overall load remains level.

This type of pallet is useful for shippers and they need less time to cube the pallet – calculate the space the pallet will occupy – than for any other design. Loads can arrive at a production line or end user and be unloaded in the sequence they are required.


A nestable pallet is one that can nest inside another similar pallet. This makes pallet storage and movement more efficient by taking up less space. On average, an empty set of nestable units saves up to four times the space need by equivalent stackable or wooden pallets. A nestable pallet can be fitted with clip-on runners or skids and add to its overall strength. This type of pallet can come in a variety of sizes and can be used with hand holds as well as fork lifts. It also minimises the costs of handling as an empty pallet nest can reduce return transport costs by up to 60 per cent. A nest of 2,000 pallet units can be fitted on the back of a truck. In addition, a nestable pallet is also an efficient method of transporting a load on a one-way export trip.

Investment Returns

A plastic pallet is considerably more expensive than a wooden one with the same load-carrying capacity. However, this type of investment bears returns over a period of about 10 years with considerable freight cost savings, a reduction in pallet damage and improved workforce safety. A plastic pallet has a much longer life span than a wooden one. A load-shifting scheme using this type of pallet can save up to 40 per cent in shifting and freighting costs when utilised within a looped supply chain.

Source: Associated Pallets. All views expressed are those of the author.


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