Most wood pallets can be reused, repaired, recycled or even used as a bio-fuel instead of going to landfill.Reusing the pallets saves trees, energy and diverts useable materials from landfill.
Pallets - Wood
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Most wood pallets can be reused and repaired multiple times, aside from a small proportion designed for single use. Reusing the pallets saves trees, energy and diverts useable materials from landfill. Pallets that can't be reused can be recycled into a range of wood-based products. There are financial incentives to reuse pallets, with many producing companies requiring deposits on pallets, to encourage higher return rates. Investing in more expensive multiple-use pallets also offers long-term savings through an extended lifecycle.
Approximately 140,000 tonnes of waste wood pallets and crates is sent to landfills in Sydney alone each year1. If this was commercially recycled, that would be the equivalent "everyday" savings of 840,000 households' energy use for a month.
Environmental Benefits of Commercial Recycling for Timber Pallets/Packaging
"Everyday" and unit savings per tonne of timber pallets/packaging2 recycled:
|6,534 km driven3|
|1.35 tonnes CO2e|
|6 houses' energy for a month4|
|10.73 GJ LHV (2,983 kWh)|
|-0.2 bath tubs5|
|-0.04 kL water|
|14 wheelie bins6|
For an explanation of key terms used, please visit our Glossary.
Some pallet suppliers offer a pallet return service, which may be run as a credit scheme to encourage higher return rates.
A number of companies also offer drop-off and/or pick-up services for reusable or repairable pallets (this service may be free for large quantities). Some companies, including pallet repair companies but also commercial composters and wood waste grinders, will also accept waste pallets for recycling.
What Happens When It's Recycled?
Reuse: Multiple-use pallets offer significant long-term financial savings over single-use pallets. They also offer significant reductions (roughly 50%) in energy consumption, solid waste generation, and greenhouse gas emissions compared to single-use wood pallets.
Repair: Most wood pallets are made up of a number of standardised components. Therefore if a component should be damage or break, your wood pallet can easily be repaired and reused.
Recycle: Pallets are dismantled and the wood is then processed into wood products like particleboard, wood chips, mulch, animal bedding, biofilters (for stormwater) or used as biomass - a source of renewable energy.
More Info & Sources
Forest & Wood Products Australia
Supply Chain Digest
Carbon Benefits Calculator - This calculator estimates the carbon benefits (in the form of greenhouse gas emissions reductions) of various reuse and recycling options for commercial quantities of wood pallets and packaging instead of disposing of them in landfill. This calculator has been developed by the Timber Development Association NSW with input and funding from the Office of Environment and Heritage NSW (OEH).
1. NSW Environment Protection Authority (2012) Carbon Benefits of Not Landfilling End-of-Life Wood Pallets & Packaging in New South Wales - Assumptions Report, NSW EPA
2. Data for timber pallets/packaging (Commercial & Industrial and Construction & Demolition recycling only) contained in Table 4 (p.14) Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water NSW (2010) Environmental Benefits of Recycling, DECCW, Sydney South
3. “Everyday” greenhouse gas emission savings expressed as number of kilometers driven by an average new passenger and light commercial vehicle (206.6g CO2e / km). National Transport Commission (2012) Carbon Dioxide Emissions from New Australian Vehicles 2011 Information Paper
4. “Everyday” cumulative energy demand savings expressed as average household monthly electricity requirements (500 kWh). 1GJ LHV = 278kWh (GJ LHV = Giga-joules of fossil energy (low heating value); kWh = Kilowatt hour)
5. “Everyday” water savings corresponding to average sized bath tubs (0.175 kL capacity). A negative number means that slightly more water is used to reprocess and recover timber pallets than producing new timber pallets/packaging.
6. “Everyday” solid waste savings represented by number of average sized wheelie bins (55kg capacity)