Why and How Wood Shipping Pallets are being Recycled?

All these while i have been exposed to the possibilities of reusing and recycling wooden shipping pallets, this is because recently i participated in a designing competition that requires shipping containers and wooden pallets to be integrated as a step of reusing materials. 

But i kept on questioning myself why people would claim that it’s recycling when these shipping pallets can be reused as a pallet itself. Soon i found out that Wood pallets are a risk to the Environment, Food Safety, Workers and also a fire hazard item. Wooden pallets are not something norm in residential life yet, it’s rarely being used as a recycling item in Malaysia along the designers’ line. Hence few people could actually know what’s happening to it.

RISK TO ENVIRONMENT

It’s surprising to know that approximately 4.2 million tons of wood pallet materials were landfilled in the US in 1995; this equals 1.4% of total waste and 19.6% of total wood waste landfilled. 7.6 billion board ft. of wood was used to make pallets in 2006 – deforesting an area 10 times the size of Manhattan in just a year. It’s said that it’s another major factor that contributes to deforestation.  Wood pallets are extremely heavy, typically weighing 70 to 80 pounds, which translates into higher fuel use and increased air pollution. The other huge environmental impact is the spreading of Asian Longhorned Beetles as shipping pallets are involved in international logistics. Sourced from HERE. 

RISK TO FIRE

Besides that, Wood Pallet is also fire hazard.. or has a higher tendency of fire risk. They are usually store in large numbers in warehouses and other locations. To get one lighted up it’s like the same as getting a paper factory to be lighted up completely. Wood pallets have low flash points and combust far more easily than alternative pallet options.

Wood dust, which can result from simply repairing, refurbishing, crushing or even abrading wood pallets in regular use, is a strong to severe explosion hazard near an ignition source. Burning wood pallets can produce irritating and potentially toxic fumes and gases including carbon monoxide, aldehydes and organic acids – this is especially true for Southern Yellow Pine, which is now used extensively in wooden pallets.

RISK TO FOOD

Wooden Shipping Pallets are used in a lot of logistics for various items including FOOD. Why plastic pallets offer the safest solution for storing and shipping food is because Insects cannot penetrate them and they’re easily sanitized. When radio frequency identification tags are embedded inside, it is easy to track and trace food throughout the supply chain, which makes it fast and easy to identify contamination and limit the spread of food-borne illness.

Wood pallets are like sponges – they’re porous and readily absorb water and other fluids. This creates a breeding ground for bacteria like salmonella, E. coli and Listeria that can cross-contaminate food. Wood pallets are so unhygienic that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said they must not be used in connection with food preparation because of the risk of Listeria contamination. More Reasons HERE

All in all, wood pallets have higher tendency to have mold growth. And at times, to overcome this, wood pallets are treated with various chemicals that could contaminate the food being shipped. There are several times that food poisoning happens may not due to the supplier and manufacturing responsibility but logistics like this could cause it!

RISK TO WORKERS

Wooden Pallets also hold risks to workers and employees. Plastic pallets pose less risk to workers than wood. They weigh significantly less than wood pallets and include ergonomically designed handholds for easy lifting and moving.

Multi-use wood pallets are held together with approximately 150 nails that eventually rust and protrude- causing a high risk of injury. Millions of pallets utilize blocks of “engineered wood,” which consists of a compressed wood residue bound together with adhesives containing urea-formaldehyde.

Formaldehyde is a highly toxic substance that is listed worldwide as a probable or known carcinogen, associated with leukemia and nasal sinus cancer, presenting a risk to warehouse workers, pallet repair personnel and possibly consumers in warehouse stores where merchandise is displayed on these pallets.

So HOW Wooden Shipping Pallets are being Recycled?

But on the other hand, as a designer i felt that the modular design of the pallet has enabled a lot of creativity juice to squeeze in. It’s capable from storage purpose, to hanging purpose, to supporting purpose and a lot more which you can name it, or simply google all the innovative ideas =)

A TWIST OF THOUGHTS

It looks nice, creative and self acclaimed to be green design.. Really? I support with that. It looks really nice and innovative with what you can do with the modular system of wooden pallets. but those pictures are merely done from the good condition pallets i suppose. Bear in mind that all the listed potential threat of the wooden pallets which i have elaborated now just became even more harmful by being direct contact to the end user and, being permanent in their homes.. Well just pick the “healthy ones’ before you start recycle ya? if not just throw it into the woods to be decompose and given habitats their homes.

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Japheth is currently working as a Green Building Consultant, based in Kuala Lumpur. As an architecture fresh graduate from Universiti Sains Malaysia, his passion for environmental sustainability and built environment speaks for himself. During free time, he runs his self initiative, MESYM, an open source platform aims to be the catalyst for communication platform for the better of environmental issues in Malaysia.

#Disclaimer# Anything in this blog is merely an individual expression of sharing and does not represent any organization/company in any matter. All pictures and information are copyrighted and must be asked permission first before circulation. Do Contact Me Here for more details.

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