When choosing whether to invest in plastic or wooden pallets to cover the logistics requirements of a company, various factors need to be considered. Naturally, price is one of them and, for now, the simple wooden pallet is cheaper than the plastic one despite its many inconveniences.
The logistics sector continues to grow, and the presence of new, emerging markets is giving rise to new transport and storage needs. Reduced weight, savings made in retrieving pallets or the disappearance of particular phytosanitary requirements which unnecessarily delayed matters at customs are tipping the scales towards a more widespread use of the plastic pallet over the wooden one. Here are 10 advantages of plastic pallets over wooden pallets:
1. Weight – volume
Plastic pallets are lighter(transport cost savings). The plastic equivalent to a wooden pallet or plank weighs some 30% less.
Neither the weight nor the volume of a plastic pallet is affected by moisture(accuracy in shipping control). This means it can be used in any climate, while there are greater restrictions on when to use wooden pallets.
As they are lighter and occupy far less space when stacked or nested, their retrieval is easier. In general, they occupy 60% less space when stacked (even less when nested) than wooden pallets.
Being impermeable, plastic pallets do not accumulate moisture and are not attacked by insects, fungi or bacteria, meaning they are far safer for infection or infestation controls. In addition, as they do not require anti-fungal or bactericide treatments, they are exempt from the need to present documents of origin or phytosanitary treatments at customs under NIMF-15. This saves time and money when importing or exporting, while ensuring health safety when transporting or storing foods or pharmaceutical products, for example.
It is difficult to clean wooden pallets, while plastic pallets can go through an automatic pressure, manual or chemical wash, enabling them to return to the circuit faster and avoiding interruptions in pallet supply.
The shelf life of plastic pallets is 5 times longer than that of wooden pallets. They are more resistant to impacts and intensive use. This makes them indispensable in high-yield closed circuits.
As regards plastic pallet maintenance, there are many models that can be repaired, made in modules, allowing for immediate replacement of the damaged part without any need for knowledge of carpentry or special tools.
Plastic pallets are easily adapted to automatic or manual forklifts, cranes or robotic systems.
Plastic pallets are far more suited to use in the chemical or automotive industries as they are resistant to more chemical products, including acids and bases.
Companies are ever more interested in quality and safety certificates and accreditation, so they require reliable traceability systems. This is easily done using bar codes or RFID with plastic pallets, while being almost impossible with wooden pallets.
Plastic pallets are 100% recyclable, reusable and more sustainable as the manufacturing process re-employs previously used materials, avoiding deforestation and reducing the amount of waste in landfills.
In addition, as they do not weigh so much, transporting goods on plastic pallets equals a reduction in CO2emissions.
The automatic lines for many processes have a low tolerance threshold for wooden pallets as these quickly sustain small imperfections. Moreover, the rate at which pieces drop off (splinters, lumps, nails) in the workplace is an added risk and could cause production to come to a halt.
In terms of manual handling, the risk of accidents arising from these bits, splinters or nails is far greater than when using ergonomic plastic pallets, which neither splinter nor use nails.
In a steadily more competitive market, the aesthetic image and reputation of a company is of ever greater import. The effect of receiving a shipment on wooden pallets with damaged corners, splintered, repairs in different colours, flaking paint, etc. is somewhat different to that produced when receiving a shipment on plastic pallets which are just as solid and sturdy as the day they rolled out. The plastic pallet will present a better image throughout its shelf life, which is an added value.
Wooden pallets continue to be cheaper to buy than plastic ones. However, the reduced expenses in many areas, its lengthy shelf life and easy retrieval, fuel savings and the possibility of automating many processes may, in the long term, mean the initial investment is better leveraged.
10. Residual value
Lastly, while wooden pallets or planks are recycled at the end of their shelf life to produce agglomerates or fuel, the scrapped pieces need to be relocated for the process which has its own cost, while the plastic pallet sees money come in when it is removed from the line and sent for recycling, generating a residual value not available from the wooden pallet.