Choose the Best Pallet Type For Your Freight

In our previous article, we mentioned the importance of choosing the right type of pallet. In this post, we’ll get into greater detail on the pros and cons of different types of pallets.

Wooden Pallets

This was traditionally the only material option for pallets, and wood is still the most popular type of pallet today.

Pros of Wooden Pallets

Wooden pallets are strong and relatively durable. They can also be reused multiple times, either by the initial shipper or sold to other shippers after their first use. Even if they are damaged, they are easily repaired. Wooden pallets are slip resistant, and they are also relatively inexpensive.

Cons of Wooden Pallets

While wooden pallets can be reused, there is a limit to their use as their structural integrity becomes weakened over time. They are also prone to splintering. Loose or rusty nails can cause damage to packaging and pose a risk to warehouse workers.

Wooden pallets are also heavier than other pallet materials. Their heavy cost increases the cost of shipping. This also increases back injury risk among warehouse workers.

The fact that wood is porous also creates several disadvantages. In order to be ISPM 15 compliant for international shipping, wooden pallets must be properly treated. There is a risk that these pallet types will be held up in quarantine by customs officials if there is a suspicion of pest contamination. Wooden pallets may also host pathogens such as E Coli or Listeria, which may present a problem when shipping consumables such as food or pharmaceuticals.

Recommendations for Wood Pallet Use

  • Because of their low cost, wooden pallets are a good pallet type for shippers who ship one way and will not have their pallets returned to them.
  • Consider the initial low cost of purchasing wooden pallets compared with the increased shipping cost due to their heavy weight. This will be an increasingly important consideration as oil prices continue to rise.
  • If shipping internationally, ensure that wood pallets are properly treated, or consider using other types of pallets.

Plastic Pallets

Plastic pallets are a newer type of pallet that come with their own set of advantages and disadvantages compared to the wooden variety.

Pros of Plastic Pallets

Heavy duty plastic pallets can be reused many more times than wooden pallets, and their structural integrity remains strong over their lifetime.

These types of pallets are also lightweight, at about 70% the weight of wooden pallets, allowing shippers to reduce shipping costs.

Their lightweight, nail-free design also poses less risk of injury to the warehouse workers who handle them. Plastic pallets are designed to interlock with each other, enabling easy stacking.

Of course, plastic pallets are ISPM 15 compliant and require no further treatment. Because they are non-porous, they are easily cleaned and will not absorb bacteria.

Cons of Plastic Pallets

The biggest deterrent of this pallet type is the cost, at roughly 3x the cost of wooden pallets. Their high price means that shippers using plastic pallets typically want them to be returned. This means that shippers must use a closed loop distribution system, which can be limiting.

Although plastic pallets are generally more durable than wood, when they are damaged, they are not reparable and must be discarded.

Plastic pallets have a slippery surface, meaning that cartons on top of them are more likely to slide around. They are also more flammable than wood pallets, but they can be treated with fire retardants which makes them safer.

Recommendations for Plastic Pallet Use

  • Plastic pallets are a good pallet type for shippers who need to ship internationally but do not want to worry about ISPM 15 or potential delays due to quarantines.
  • This type of pallet can reduce shipping costs for shippers who participate in closed loop shipping and reuse their pallets.
  • The reduced weight of plastic pallets may make them an economical choice for expensive forms of shipping such as air freight.
  • Because they are easily cleaned and sanitized, they lend themselves well to shipping food and other consumables.
  • If using plastic pallets, ensure that they have been treated with fire retardants.

Corrugate/Cardboard Pallets

Another pallet type that is relatively new is made of corrugate or cardboard. This includes several different types of pallets, such as those with honeycomb or corrugated constructions.

Pros of Corrugate Pallets

A major advantage of corrugate pallets is their lightweight structure. Pallets made of corrugate will weigh only 25% of a pallet made of wood, drastically reducing shipping costs. Depending on the type of corrugate pallet, these pallets are comparable to the cost of wooden pallets.

Corrugate pallets are also easily broken down and recycled after use. They are also compliant with ISPM 15 regulations, making them useful for international shipping.

Cons of Corrugate Pallets

The major disadvantage of this pallet type is their lack of durability. Corrugate pallets quickly lose structural integrity if they become moist, and therefore cannot be exposed to the elements or stored outside. Because of their lack of durability, they can only be used once. They are also porous and cannot be cleaned or sanitized.

Recommendations for Corrugate Pallets

  • Their light weight and ISPM 15 compliance makes corrugate pallets a good choice for international shipping.
  • If using corrugate pallets, shippers must ensure that their logistics personnel are properly trained and prepared to protect corrugate pallets from exposure to moisture.