In the world of logistics and shipping, pallets play an important role in the safe and efficient transportation of goods. These simple pieces are the backbone of the supply chain, ensuring that products reach their destinations intact and on time. Due to their important role, pallets come in a variety of types to suit different businesses and their needs.
According to the Australian Standard AS:4068, the wooden pallets have specific design features. When it comes to their dimensions, the AS:4068 defines two primary sizes: the standard pallet (1165 mm x 1165 mm) and the Euro pallet (1200 mm x 800 mm). This precision in size ensures compatibility and standardisation within the Australian pallet industry.
Additionally, AS:4068 recommends timber species that are suitable for pallet manufacturing. These include Tasmanian oak, mixed hardwoods, and other durable native hardwood species. Choosing the right timber species is crucial for pallet longevity and robustness.
Despite their widespread use, timber pallets have certain disadvantages:
- Moisture Damage: Exposure to moisture or excessive humidity can cause timber pallets to warp, rot, or weaken, leading to premature failure.
- Nail Failure: Over time, nails can get loose or dislodged, reducing the pallet’s stability and strength.
- Board or Deckboard Damage: Damaged or broken boards, particularly those located on the top deck, can result in reduced load-bearing capacity and pose safety risks during handling.
- Environmental Concern: The environmental cost of timber pallets is a significant consideration in today’s sustainability-focused world. While timber is a renewable resource, the production and disposal of timber pallets can have environmental impacts.
Unlike wooden pallets, using long-lasting metal pallets can help reduce environmental impacts. These are usually made of steel and offer several advantages over traditional wooden pallets:
- Durability and Longevity: Metal pallets are highly durable and can withstand heavy loads, impacts, and harsh environments. They have a longer lifespan compared to timber pallets, reducing the need for frequent replacements.
- Hygiene and Cleanliness: Metal pallets are easy to clean and maintain, making them ideal for industries with strict hygiene requirements, such as pharmaceuticals or food processing. They are resistant to pests, mould, and contaminants.
- Fire Resistance: Metal pallets have inherent fire resistance properties, making them suitable for industries where fire safety is a concern. They do not contribute to fire spread and are often required in hazardous environments.
- Consistency and Precision: Metal pallets offer consistent dimensions and weight, ensuring compatibility with automated systems and maximising storage space utilization. They are also resistant to warping or deformation, maintaining their shape over time.
- A More Environmentally Friendly Option: Steel pallets are fully recyclable. Additionally, the use of steel eliminates the need for timber treatments and preservatives, reducing the release of harmful chemicals into the environment. These pallets also do not contribute to deforestation or habitat destruction.
By transitioning to long-lasting steel pallets, businesses can minimise their environmental impact and contribute to sustainable practices. The extended lifespan and recyclability of steel pallets not only conserve natural resources but also reduce waste generation and associated disposal challenges.
Although not as common as wood and metal pallets, there are also plastic options available on the market. Plastic pallets are resistant to moisture, pests, and chemicals, making them ideal for industries with strict hygiene requirements, such as food processing, pharmaceuticals, and healthcare. They can be easily cleaned and sanitised, reducing the risk of contamination.
Many plastic pallets are designed to be nestable or stackable, which optimizes storage space when they are not in use. This feature is especially valuable for warehouses with limited space.
However, they are not as durable as metal options. Plastic pallets can become brittle over time, especially when exposed to UV radiation or extreme temperatures. They are susceptible to cracking and damage in such conditions.
Businesses dealing with light loads may benefit from cardboard pallets. They are lightweight which makes them easy to handle. Cardboard pallets are the most affordable type of pallets and can be recycled when they are no longer needed. However, they have a very short lifespan because they are single-use.