Picking Pallets: Wood v. Plastic

Millions of items, from your favorite snacks to electronic gadgets, made their way to American homes via numerous shipping and distribution channels. The factories which created these goods produce the items and ship them via containers. When businesses ship items in bulk, they either use wood or plastic pallets. But, which one is best? Let’s take a look at both options to help you make that decision.



Wood Pallets: Pros

Using wood pallets carries many advantages during shipping. First, when selecting a pallet type, you need to consider the destination of your shipment. If you plan to ship goods internationally, you cannot expect your pallet to come back. Since plastic pallets are much more expensive, it is better to use wood pallets in this situation.
Wooden pallets can also withstand more weight. Experts recommend using wood pallets if you ship items with a weight between 1500 and 3000 lbs.. Since more weight is allowed, you can ship more items thus reducing the shipping costs per item.
Furthermore, if a wooden pallet gets damaged, it is much easier to repair than plastic pallets. If a plastic pallet gets damaged, there is no simple way to repair plastic. You just have to take the loss and recycle it. On the other hand, wood pallets are much easier to repair. Tools such as dismantling bars are designed to help remove interior boards for replacement within wooden pallets.



Wood Pallets: Cons

Although wood pallets offer an inexpensive alternative for shipping goods in bulk, there are also drawbacks when using them to ship goods. Since wood is an organic material, it is susceptible to the forces of nature.
Since wood is gathered from forests around the world, the wood used in pallets may contain traces of insect larvae, bacteria, and diseases. The larvae can hatch and the resulting insects can make their way into your shipment. As result, if you ship goods overseas, you may need to treat the wood to prevent infestation, which will increase shipping costs. Before deciding on wood pallets, examine shipping regulations of your destination country to see if treatment is necessary.
In addition to holding potentially harmful agents, wood can absorb moisture very well. Consequently, wooden pallets could be a breeding ground for mold, which can spread to your goods. Your shipment could get ruined, especially if you ship food products.
Another disadvantage to using wood pallets is that the material is rough on shipments. Since wood is a coarse material, it contains splinters that could damage fragile goods. Fasteners, also present, can damage goods as well.



Plastic Pallets: Pros

There are advantages to using plastic pallets, too. Although plastic pallets aren’t easily repairable, they are made from 100% recyclable and reusable material. In some cases, you will be able to use the plastic pallet for another shipment. For example, if you are in the pharmaceutical or dairy industry, you can request your plastic pallet to be returned. Since plastic pallets have a lifespan of 10 years, you could keep reusing these pallets and thereby reduce shipping costs.
Since wood is a fragile material, wooden pallets are easily damaged. As a result, you may need to keep reordering wooden pallets for shipment. Even though plastic pallets are more expensive, their reusability could help you save in the long run.
Also, unlike wood, plastic is not an organic material. Because of this, plastic pallets are much less likely to harbor harmful bacteria or insects. In addition, these pallets can easily be washed and disinfected of bacterial agents to make goods ready for shipment.



Plastic Pallets: Cons

Although plastic pallets have excellent properties, there are also some disadvantages to using them. One main disadvantage is the high cost of plastic pallets. Since they cost much more than wooden pallets, there is a high initial investment required to purchase one. Also, since plastic pallets can only handle a lighter load, the cost issue is exacerbated.
In addition, if a plastic pallet gets damaged, it cannot easily get repaired. It must be recycled. You could potentially lose your investment in a single shipment and not get the benefit of durability.
Another disadvantage is the lack of friction. Unlike wood, plastic will have less friction, which might make the pallets harder to handle on certain equipment.




If your business is trying to decide whether or not to use wooden or plastic pallets, then consider the pros and cons of each and consider factors such as your industry, initial investment available, or shipment destination. Examining each of these will help you and your goods arrive at their respective destinations.