Wood vs. plastic: Which pallets are more sustainable?

By Katie Pyzyk
Supply Chain Dive
May 26, 2023
Category: Wood, Paper & Green Building
Region: United States

Suppliers of wood and plastic pallets both heavily promote their respective sustainability attributes, raising the question whether only one can claim top honors. …Peerless Research Group’s 2022 Pallet Market Evaluation, its 12th annual study, showed that 95% of responding companies use wood pallets and about one-third use plastic. …More pallet companies are marketing their products’ sustainability, regardless of substrate, in alignment with the increased attention to ESG practices. …Penn State’s Judd Michael has worked with Chuck Ray on pallet research studies. A 2020 study on which Ray was the primary author examined the life-cycle assessments of treated wood and plastic pallets used by the grocery industry, noting environmental impacts from emissions and resources consumed. The researchers looked at nine impact categories, including non-renewable energy use, ozone layer depletion, aquatic ecotoxicity and terrestrial ecotoxicity. …The study concluded that wood pallets had a slight edge on plastic in terms of sustainability, namely the overall carbon footprint. 

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