Pallets are used for transportation and shipping of various goods, mainly from distributor to the final destination. The goods are stacked on a pallet, often wrapped with a protective film, net or straps. Alternatively, goods can be stacked onto the pallet, loaded on a transportation vehicle such as a truck or a train car, and shipped to the customer. Pallets provide protection of shipped goods from mechanical breakage and simplify handling of the goods.
Presently, there are three types of pallet: wooden, metal and plastic.
Wooden pallets were a traditional tool for product handling in the past.
Metal pallets are used in a very small part of the market, especially in aviation for airdrops. They are extremely expensive and mostly used for shipment of exceptionally heavy loads.
Plastic pallets have been available on the market for about 28 years, but recently they have gained significant market presence and continue to grow at an unprecedented rate.
Applications of Plastic Pallets
The international trend has switched towards the use of plastic pallets and they are already in use in a wide range of industries like: Agriculture, Automotive, Building and construction, Clothing, Electronics, Food and groceries, Freight forwarding, Household goods, Logistics, Nurseries, Pharmaceuticals, Rubber and White goods.
Plastic Pallets for Grocery Distribution
Plastic pallets are used to move goods through all links of the distribution chain. Pallets typically travel through three segments of the grocery industry: the manufacturing plant, the distribution centre and the retail store. The grocery industry traditionally uses a 48 x 40 inch (1219 x 1016 mm) stringer, non-reversible pallet. 90% of all dry groceries are moved on this type of pallet.
The standard wooden pallet is used for all grocery products except dairy, health and beauty aids, slow-selling items, and automated meat and frozen food storage systems.
Plastic pallets used in the distribution industry are replicas of the form and dimensions of the traditional wooden pallet. Plastic pallets used in Europe are designed to substitute standard 9-block 1200x800mm Euro-pallets made of wood. In 1996 approximately 22% of grocery distributors in the U.S.A. used plastic pallets. This number has increased to 37.2% by the end of 1997 and dramatically increasing every year. In 2001, it was just below 50%.
Plastic Pallets for the Automotive Industry
The automotive manufacturers were among the first users of Plastic pallets. Custom-made testable pallets were used to ship parts from manufacturing plants and outside vendors to assembly factories and to move trays/pallets on the assembly floor.
Plastic Pallets for Postal Services
United States Postal Service is currently the largest user of Plastic pallets in the U.S.A. Plastic pallets are used for transportation of mail and telephone books within mail shipping system.
Postal officials purchased their first nestable Plastic pallets (some 200,000 units) in 1987 and have been buying them ever since at increased quantities every year.
In 1994, U.S.A. Postal Service purchased 3.I million Plastic pallets and continues to order new Plastic pallets. U.S.A. Postal Services is planning to replace all remaining wooden pallets with Plastic pallets.
Plastic Pallets for Warehousing
Plastic pallets find increasing acceptance in warehousing operations.
Plastic pallets design allows the usage of legs for load support instead of long bars used in standard stringer-type wooden products.
Plastic pallets provide better compatibility with automated material handling systems than wooden products.
Plastic pallets also can be easily stacked to achieve significant savings of valuable warehouse space and shipping costs.
Plastic pallets can also be stored in open areas. Sun and rain do not damage them.
Plastic Pallets for Food Processing
Food processing industry is increasingly using Plastic pallets because of their superior sanitary properties.
Plastic pallets are resistant to bacteria and fungi, both of which grow on wooden products.
Plastic pallets can be easily cleaned and returned to the distribution network. Wooden products contaminated with bacteria and fungus needs to be disposed.
Increasing safety and sanitary requirements for food processing further encourage use of Plastic pallets.
Recyclable Plastic pallets can eliminate disposal costs that are constantly growing, especially in countries with limited resources. The use of plastic pallets increases wooden resources in any country for other more effective usage for wood.
Plastic Pallets for Agriculture
Because of the advantage of plastic pallets in the agriculture industry, the Health Department in USA is trying to make the use of all wood containers in fresh produce illegal. Plastic pallets and crates increase hygiene and prevent bacterial spread.
In 1999 about 28% of pallets used by farmers were plastic pallets and the number is increasing significantly every year.
In the Nursery Industry plastic pallets have a high demand today. With the high UV resistance of Plastic pallets, many Nurseries around the world are using them under their seedlings and propagation trays. In case of damage (mainly human errors) they recycle the plastic pallets at a much lower cost than normal.
Plastic2go Plastic Pallets
Our plastic pallets are a result of many years of continued and extensive research, development and use, offering a cost-effective solution to diverse materials handling requirements, as well as offering many benefits over traditional materials, such as wooden pallets.
Our plastic pallets require little or no cost for repair and maintenance, which reduces pallet costs per trip by up to 75%, resulting in a faster return on investment.
Our plastic pallets offer high dimensional stability with variation of loads, from light-weight, through medium-duty up to heavy-duty.
Our plastic pallets are waterproof. They can handle different types of weather and a wide range of temperatures, from sub freezing temperature to temperatures as high as 85℃, which makes them ideal for food, pharmaceuticals, automated warehouses and or outdoor storage.
Our plastic pallets are resistant to humidity and therefore are most suitable for transportation of products that must stay dry, like chocolate, coffee, paper products, pharmaceuticals, exotic wooden products, cement, spices, cereal and dry minerals.
Our plastic pallets are resistant to bacterial contamination under a wide range of operating temperatures. This makes them suitable for food handling, automated warehouses and outdoor storage.
Our plastic pallets are moulded, which makes their stacking much more efficient inside a warehouse, in a truck and in a shipping container. Therefore, it is cost-effective in saving storage space.
Our plastic pallets weigh 30-50% less than same-dimension wooden pallets or load carriers. This makes them cost-effective for shipping and storage. We have the lightest pallets in the world, weighing only 4Kg and measuring 1200x1000mm.
Our plastic pallets have no sharp edges, no nails and no splinters, so they minimise the damage to personnel and goods and are safe and easy to handle. Those qualities found to be effective in enhancing safety in the material handling industry both for workers and for products
Our plastic pallets are easy to clean. You can wash them with high pressure or, if needed, sterilize them at temperatures up to 120℃.
Our plastic pallets are non-absorbent and neutral to odours and tastes. This makes them suitable for pharmaceutical or food applications. This quality makes our plastic pallets much more hygienic!
Our plastic pallets are environmentally friendly. They reduce the chopping down of trees by replacing wooden pallets, thereby decreasing global warming.
Our plastic pallets are 100% recyclable. When damaged, our plastic pallets can be remoulded and save some more trees.
We offer both new and used plastic pallets to suit every customer’s needs.
Plastic Pallets vs. Wooden Pallets
Plastic pallets have significant advantages over their wooden counterparts.
Plastic pallets are safer to handle than wooden pallets due to the design, smooth finishing and lower weight.
Plastic pallets have significantly lower weight than wooden pallets. Using plastic pallets decreases worker compensation and insurance costs associated with back injuries from lifting.
Plastic pallets have no sharp edges, no nails and no splinters. Using plastic pallets lessens insurance costs associated with workers’ injuries and damage to goods.
Plastic pallets are space saving relatively to wooden pallets and therefore decrease shipping and storage costs.
Plastic pallets in contrast to the wooden products can be easily stacked on top of each other even outside in all weather conditions and save storage space.
A stack of ready-to-go nested Plastic pallets will use less than half the space of a similar number of wooden pallets. Nesting allows distribution centres to have a supply of products on hand ready for shipment.
Stacked unused plastic pallets are cheaper to transport – approximately 40% less space and weight.
Ease of Use
Plastic pallets are easier to handle than wooden products because of uniformity, variety of design and ease of maneuverability.
Uniformity of plastic pallets on factory assembly lines causes fewer stoppages by size differences. Plastic pallets are moulded. They are 100% identical to one another in size and allow easy calculation of measurement for shipping and storage. They are also easy to use with robots and assembly lines.
Plastic pallets offer a wider variety of designs than wooden products. There are about 500 kinds of pallet to suit different needs, sizes and load requirements.
Plastic pallets offer easy handling with loading equipment such as forklifts or pallet jacks. Plastic pallets are lighter than wooden pallets. Therefore, Plastic pallets have an advantage in manoeuvring by human hand.
Plastic pallets are more versatile than wooden pallets.
Plastic pallets can be used in cold and warm conditions from -22℃ to +60℃ (-40℉ to +140℉) with no damage, unlike wooden pallets, which are damaged by even mild changes in temperature.
Plastic pallets have a very high UV rate. They can be stored outside in rain, wind and sun, which have little to no damaging effect. Wooden pallets are sensitive to the elements.
Ease of Cleaning
Plastic pallets are much more hygienic than wooden pallets. The hygienic properties of plastic pallets are extremely important in agriculture, food and pharmaceutical industries.
Plastic pallets are easy to clean with solvents, steam or water, while wooden pallets are damaged in contact with solvents, steam and water. Plastic pallets can be steam-cleaned with temperatures up to 120℃.
Plastic pallets are not a substrate for bacteria, fungus and insect contamination, unlike wooden pallets.
Plastic pallets do not absorb water and are impervious to acids, fats and solvents, while wooden pallets are most sensitive to acids, fats and solvents.
Due to their strength and design, plastic pallets are more durable than wooden pallets. The average plastic pallet’s life ranges from 50 to 500 trips (depending on its type) versus 10 to 50 trips for the wooden products which then need to be repaired. That’s about ten times more durable.
Plastic pallets are much more cost-effective relative to wooden pallets because of their durability. The cost of a plastic pallet ranges from as low as US$11.00 up to US$60.00 with the average price about US$26. The average cost of a wooden product is about US$9. However, on a per trip basis plastic pallets are by far more cost-effective than wooden pallets. The average cost per trip is about US$0.01 for a plastic pallet, compared with an average US$0.03 per trip for the wooden product.
There are other costs associated with continually purchasing wooden pallets and maintaining them as opposed to plastic pallets. There are also costs associated with warehousing because of damage to shipped product due to broken wooden pallets or damage caused by nails or splinters. Plastic pallets are durable and save cost on insurance on returned products.
Plastic pallets are significantly lighter than wooden products. Plastic pallets weigh 2-4 times less than wooden pallets. The lower weight of plastic pallets results in savings of shipping costs, especially for air transportation.
Most plastic pallets are fully recyclable. This is very important issue in the time when government around the world enforce strict environmental policies and regulations. In some countries, the use of environmentally friendly plastic pallets can result in significant cost savings and attract governmental support and subsidies. Plastic pallets made of recycled plastic are available at a lower cost.
Plastic Pallet Manufacturing Process
Plastic pallets have an advantage because they can be manufactured using several different technologies: high impact injection moulding, structural foam injection moulding, blow moulding, rotational moulding, single-sheet vacuum thermoforming and twin-sheet thermoforming.
The High Impact Injection Moulding process involves forcing a hot mixture of resin into a mould to make a plastic pallet. Plastic pallets made by the injection moulding process have many internal features such as channels and ribs to increase the strength of the pallet and reduce its weight. The finished product is a solid plastic that is very rigid and sometimes too fragile for some pallet applications. Injection-moulded pallets have lower impact strength relative to other types of plastic pallets, particularly at low temperatures.
Structural Foam Injection Moulding is similar to conventional injection moulding, except that a foaming agent is introduced with the resin melt and injected into the mould using low pressure. The result is a pallet, with an integral skin and, a cellular foam core with a high strength-to-weight ratio. An advantage of structural foam is that it gives the pallet some flexibility. This process also helps to keep the overall weight and material costs of this plastic pallet down. This kind of plastic pallet is consistent and offers good dimensional stability. It can be manufactured with post-consumer recycled material to reduce the cost. Structural foam plastic pallets have the highest load capacity among different types of Plastic pallets. They are particularly useful for heavy-duty applications.
Blow Moulding involves injecting air into the mould to blow the plastic out to the sides of the mould. The resulting pallet looks like a twin-sheet thermoformed pallet. Blow moulded Plastic pallets have lower structural strength than other types of pallets and can be used for light-weight products.
Rotational Moulding uses a large, clamshell-like mould loaded with resin in granular form. The mould spins over a heat source and the centrifugal force pushes the melted resin to the sides of the mould, creating the Plastic pallets. Rotational moulding principal has an advantage because of its lower-cost tooling. However, the process is more time-consuming than others. It is not the process to use for high-volume, specialized requirements.
Vacuum Thermoforming involves a sheet of plastic that is pulled onto a mould via a vacuum process. This is one of the lower-cost methods for making Plastic pallets. Tooling for vacuum forming and twin-sheet thermoforming is less expensive than for injection moulding or structural foam moulding. However, vacuum-formed pallets tend to have rather thin walls, offering limited impact strength. Some manufacturers add steel rods within the plastic shell to give the pallet strength.
Twin-sheet Thermoforming involves a process similar to vacuum forming, except that two sheets of plastic are brought together. In twin-sheet thermoforming, two sheets are pulled into-the mould at the same time. The two sheets are bonded together with heat. The twin-sheet plastic pallets are durable, often showing little if any damage after being hit with lift trucks. The disadvantage of the twin-sheet thermoformed pallets is their lower dynamic load capacity comparatively to structural foam pallets.
Among all of the types of plastic pallets available at the market structural foam pallets are considered the best for major heavy-duty closed loop applications in food distribution and delivery systems.
Advantages of Plastic Pallets
- Plastic pallets are easier to handle than wooden pallets.
- Plastic pallets can have a 4-way entry.
- Plastic pallets offer wider variety of designs than wooden pallets.
- Plastic pallets offer easier handling with loading equipment such as forklift or pallet jack.
- Pallets are lighter and are safer to handle comparatively to wooden products. Lower weight of Plastic pallets decreases worker compensation and insurance costs associated with back injuries from lifting pallets.
- Plastic pallets are safer for use because of smooth design with no nails or splinters. Plastic pallets usage supports a good delivery of product and is cost-effective in insurance to product delivered.
- Plastic pallets in contrast to wooden counterparts can be easily stacked on top of each other and are save space.
- A stack of ready-to-go nested Plastic pallets will occupy less than half the space a similar number of wooden pallets might. Nesting makes it easy for distribution centres to have a supply of the pallets on hand ready for shipment.
- Plastic pallets can be stored outside with no damage and saves factory space.
- Plastic pallets are identical to each other and comply with required specifications for dimensions, weight, and load capacity. This is a very important feature for automated material handling and shipping.
- Plastic pallets are easy to clean. Plastic pallets are much more hygienic than wooden products. They are easy to clean with solvents, steam or water and are not a substrate for bacteria, fungus and insect contamination as is the case for wooden products.
- Plastic pallets do not absorb water and are impervious to acids, fats and solvents. Hygienic properties of Plastic pallets are extremely important in agriculture, food and pharmaceutical industries.
- Plastic pallets provides more attractive product displays in retail application because of colour options
- Plastic pallets are strong and durable. Plastic pallets can withstand deep freezing conditions as well as open and extreme sun conditions.
- Plastic pallets usage minimise the need for costly pallet repairs.
- Can not be used for firewood by employees.