Packaging Corner: Alternative pallet material offers unique benefits
December 01, 2012 - MMH Editorial
Choice reigns supreme in the wide world of pallets: more than 20 different sizes; stackable or nestable; stringer or block construction. And then there are the materials: paper, plastic, metal or wood.
Gary Sharon has another option for the pallet shopper: presswood pallets. Made of a combination of recycled wood and damaged lumber fibers mixed with a thermo-set resin, these sustainable-certified pallets are precision-molded under high heat and 1,200 tons of pressure, explains Sharon, vice president of Litco International.
As an alternative material, presswood represents a small percentage of the overall pallet market. However, a few unique qualities have helped them find a home in a range of disparate markets—from pharmaceutical to electronics to small parts handling.
“Presswood pallets are ideal for both small- and large-volume users in a variety of applications, particularly for export, because they are considered processed wood and not regulated by IPPC-ISPM 15 for phytosanitary compliance,” he says. “The heat and pressure used in manufacturing reduces each pallet’s moisture content to less than 3%. They are also moisture resistant.”
The production process makes them impervious to insect or mold infestations, adds Sharon. Likewise, they do not require additional heat treatment and special stamps. They are free of chemicals such as brominated phenols (TBP), trichlorophenol (TCP) and methyl phenols (MP) often used by overseas pallet manufacturers instead of heat treatment. As these chemicals can contaminate product loads with strong odors, their use in pallets poses both public health and environmental safety concerns.
Presswood pallets are molded to be nestable, meaning that nearly three times as many can be stacked together than traditional wood pallets for ease of storage and maximum volume in returning them by trailer or shipping container after use.
“They also lack nails or fasteners, so their use has increased in handling all types of bagged products,” he says.
Finally, in comparison to nestable plastic pallets, presswood tends to yield a stiffer, more rigid pallet. “It has the density equivalent to red oak,” explains Sharon. “This enhances the integrity of a unit load because the stiffer the pallet, the better the packages perform overall for less product damage during transit. And, they’re generally more affordable.”