Pros & Cons of Different Pallets

How to find the best pallet for the freight you plan to haul!

In an earlier entry regarding pallet type, we mentioned the importance of choosing the best pallet for the job. In this piece, we will review in greater detail on the positives and negatives associated with different types of shipping pallets.

Standard Wooden Shipping Pallets

Wood was once traditionally the only material option for manufacturing pallets, and wood remains a popular pallet option even today.

Positives associated with wooden pallets:

Wood shipping pallets are often considered:

  • Strong.
  • Slip resistant.
  • Fairly inexpensive.
  • Relatively durable.
  • Reusable and somewhat repairable.

Please note the pallet can be used more than once by the initial shipper or the pallet can be sold to another manufacturing plant after its initial use.

Negatives associated with wooden pallets:

It is true that traditional wooden shipping pallets can be used multiple times, but there is a limit to the total number of uses before the structural integrity of the pallet becomes compromised. Pallets are also prone to splintering upon impact. Loose or rusty nails and screws can also cause damage to inventory packaging and possible cause harm to warehouse staff.

Traditional wood pallets are also heavier than pallets produced from materials like polyethylene. The substantial pallet weight results in an increase in the cost of shipping. Heavy pallets also increase the potential for back injury amongst staff.

The reality that wood is porous or permeable also creates a unique set of disadvantages. In order for a wood pallet to comply with ISPM 15 international regulations for shipping on a wood pallet. Even compliance with ISPM 15 does not ensure a will not be delayed in quarantine by officials if there is a suspicion of contamination by pests. It is also possible a wood shipping pallet may harbor the following pathogens that can present a problem if consumables are being shipped:

  • E Coli.
  • Listeria.

Recommendations for potential wooden pallet use:

  • Due to their low price, the pallets are a preferred option for manufacturers who ship one way and do not plan to have the pallets returned to their facility.
  • It is necessary to consider the initial low expense of purchasing wood pallets compared with the increased shipping expense due to the heavy weight of a pallet. This factor will continue to be an important consideration as all costs associated with transportation continue to rise.
  • If you intend to ship internationally, you will want to ensure that all wood pallets are treated properly, or seriously consider using something like a reusable plastic pallet.

Durable Plastic Shipping Pallets

Plastic shipping pallets from Reusable Transport Packaging are a newer type of pallet that comes with its own set of pluses and minuses when compared to the traditional wood variety.

The pros of plastic shipping pallets:

Durable plastic shipping pallets are designed to be reused several more times than wood shipping pallets, and the structural integrity of a pallet remains strong and stable over its lifetime.

Reusable plastic pallets are also lightweight, weighing only about 70% what traditional wood pallets weight, allowing a shipper to reduce expenses.

The lightweight, hardware-free design of reusable plastic pallets also poses less potential risk of injury to warehouse staff who handle the pallets. The pallets interlock with one another, enabling safe and secure stacking.

Reusable plastic pallets from Reusable Transport Packaging are ISPM 15 compliant and do not require additional treatment for international shipping. The non-porous nature of polyethylene also equates to pallets that will not absorb dangerous bacteria and can be easily cleaned and maintained.

The negatives of plastic shipping pallets:

The only true deterrent to this type of shipping pallet is the expense when compared to traditional wood pallets. Pallet price usually means that shippers employing plastic pallets typically look for them to be returned. This means a manufacturer must use a closed loop distribution system, which can prove to be limiting.

While plastic pallets are more durable than wood, when a polyethylene pallet is damaged, it is typically not repaired but it is recycled and re-molded.

Reusable plastic pallets also have a surface that is more slippery than a porous wood pallet, meaning cartons stacked on top of the pallet are more likely to slip around. They are also flammable, but the pallets can be treated with special fire retardants to limit the potential for fire.

Recommendations for reusable plastic pallet use:

  • Plastic shipping pallets are a solid choice for shippers who plan to ship internationally but do not want to concern themselves with the ISPM 15 or potential delays caused by quarantines.
  • Reusable plastic pallets can help minimize shipping expenses for manufacturers who operate in a closed loop and reuse their own pallets.
  • The reduced weight of reusable plastic pallets may also make them an economical option for expensive forms of shipping like air freight.
  • Because plastic pallets can be cleaned and sanitized easily, they are a good option for shipping consumables like food from point A to point B.
  • If you choose to use plastic shipping pallets, you will want to verify which fire retardants were used in their creation.

Cardboard Shipping Pallets

Another type of shipping pallet that is relatively new is fabricated from heavy duty cardboard. This pallet category is comprised of several different types of pallets, such as those with a corrugated or honeycomb structure.

The pluses associated with cardboard pallets:

One major advantage of cardboard pallets is their light structure. Pallets fabricated from this material will weigh just 1/4 what a traditional wood shipping pallet will weight, leading to a drastic decline in shipping expenses. Depending on the intended pallet use, these models are comparable to the initial expense associated with wood pallets.

Cardboard shipping pallet models also allow for quick destruction and recycling after they have served their purpose. Most are also compliant with ISPM 15 regulations, meaning they can safely be used for international shipping purposes.

The minuses associated with cardboard pallets:

The primary disadvantage tied to cardboard pallets is simply the durability the lack. Pallets produced from corrugate lose most, if not all, structural integrity if the pallet becomes moist. It is, therefore, impossible to store a cardboard pallet anywhere where it may become exposed to the elements. This lack of durability means a cardboard pallet is essentially a one-and-done shipping pallet. Additional negatives include:

  • Cardboard pallets are porous
  • Pallet models can never be cleaned or sanitized.

Recommendations regarding cardboard pallets:

  • Pallet models are light and ISPM 15 compliant, making them a suitable choice for some international shipping.
  • If choosing corrugate shipping pallets, a manufacturer must verify that their personnel are trained and prepared to protect the pallets from exposure to the elements.

To discuss the logistics involved in integrating reusable plastic pallets into your facility or request a price quote on one of our other reusable shipping solutions, please contact us at 727.319.2300 or