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Timber pallets vs plastic pallets: Which is best?

Somerlap plastic palletsAt Somerlap we can collect and re-sell good quality plastic pallets. We supply businesses like Dewey Waters and Heathcoat Fabrics with plastic pallets who use them for transporting specific freight for their customers.

Timber and plastic pallets both have their uses and depending on your industry and supply chain, one might be more suitable than the other. Timber is still the primary material for pallets – and for good reason: it’s cost effective and environmentally friendly. But there’s some cases where plastic is appropriate. Here’s a comparison of the pros and cons of both…

Plastic pallets

Plastic pallets are less common, but they can be useful for sterile conditions and for air freight. They tend to be used more by businesses operating a closed-loop supply chain in order to recoup the higher cost.

Pros

  • Washable and therefore more suitable for sterile transportation of pharmaceutical, and food and drinks products.
  • Good for international shipping as plastic is not regulated like timber. The lighter weight can also result in lower air freight costs.

Cons

  • Around three times more expensive than timber pallets.
  • Not flexible and can’t be repaired if they are damaged.
  • More difficult to recycle once they are no longer usable.
  • Bigger fire risk.
  • Can be slippy and therefore hard to handle.

Environmental friendly?

Sadly, plastic pallets are not as environmentally friendly as timber pallets. Plastic never breaks down and is more difficult to recycle. Despite the difficulties we work with a local, Bridgwater-based company to ensure that the few plastic pallets we do sell are recycled. Once plastic pallets reach the end of their life we pick them up from customers and send them to Wessex Recycling who chip them and use the recycled chips to manufacture other products, such as park benches.

Timber pallets

Timber pallets remain the primary choice as they are cheap, recyclable and repairable.

Pros

  • Much cheaper than plastic pallets.
  • Easily repairable.
  • Can hold more weight and have more friction, keeping items in place.
  • Environmentally friendly – made from a renewable resource that can be easily recycled.

Cons

  • More difficult to keep clean, so not suitable for sterile environments.
  • Can contain fungus so need to be heat treated for exporting.
  • Timber can rot if it gets wet.

Environmental friendly?

Timber pallets are naturally better for the environment. They’re made from a renewable resource and our timber is only sourced from sustainably managed forests. They’re easy to repair, and when they reach a point of no repair we ensure they are not wasted. Any used pallets that are beyond repair and cannot be reconditioned or restored are recycled into wood chips. These wood chips then start a new life as ground coverings or fuel which we also use to heat our warehouse.

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