Durable and inexpensive, wooden pallets are one of the most common means of stacking and transporting goods. They do start to pile up quickly, though, and it can be tempting to simply throw out surplus pallets. However, reusing or recycling them not only helps save landfill space but can also save your business money.
The simplest way to avoid throwing pallets away is to reuse them. Most wood pallets are sturdy enough to be used several times under normal conditions. Even if your business doesn't have any use for shipping pallets, some manufacturers will collect them for reuse. Check with the companies that provide your pallets to see if this option is available. Creative reuse sees pallets turned into decking, gardening products and furniture items such as beds or shelves.
Whereas once old pallets were simply thrown out or destroyed, recycling is now on the rise. According to the Australian Timber Product Stewardship Group, one third of timber packaging, such as pallets and crates, is now recycled. Pallets and other packaging can go on to become particle board, animal bedding and even filters that remove contaminants from waste water. Instead of taking up landfill space, these recycled products go to create new materials that would otherwise require trees to be cut down. Other pallets are recycled for bioenergy. Burning waste timber products to create heat or electricity reduces the carbon emission impact of energy production. Not all recycling companies accept timber products, but more do every year, so check with your local recycling firm to see if they can accept your surplus pallets.
If you've never recycled wood packaging before, you may have some concerns about safety. Timber pallets are treated in various ways to protect them from pests, fungus and other threats. Although some of these processes involve chemical fumigation, they don't make recycling pallets any more dangerous. All imported pallets, and almost all domestic Australian pallets, are either heat-treated or fumigated. These can be recycled safely. A small number of Australian pallets contain pesticides that prevent them from being recycled by most recycling firms. These pallets carry distinctive markings -- ask your recycler if they can handle pallets marked EHBT or H2-F, which indicated the presence of these pesticides. If your recycler can't take them, they may have to be disposed of as regular waste. Again, these are very rare; most pallets are completely safe to recycle.