Wooden Pallets are a flat, wooden lattice structure that are produced in regular sizes and to which a large numbers of smaller goods can be placed and secured onto for transportation and storage purposes. The most common forms of wood pallet are made from pallet boards and pallet blocks which raise the load sufficiently to allow fork lift trucks to easily access and move the load in a secure and effective way.
Every year more than 20 million pallets are manufactured and distributed throughout the UK construction industry alone, and they are also widely found in the retail and fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) industries.
Wooden pallets are popular because they are cost-effective, can be reused many times and are strong enough to carry significant loads
In more recent years, wooden pallets are also being used to create other structures such as furniture, garden structures, with the wood from the pallets also being repurposed.
Common types of Pallet materials include:
- Pallet Boards: Generally between 16 and 25mm thick and 90 to 125mm wide these boards provide the main support elements of the pallet. Ideally square edged and kiln dried these boards are produced in sawmills in the UK and throughout Northern Europe. Pallet boards destined for use only in the country of origin do not have to meet any specific plant health requirements but those sold across international borders must meet the plant health requirements in the country of destination.
- ISPM 15 Pallet Wood: Wooden pallets and packaging that are destined to cross international boarders must meet the requirements of ISPM 15 to prove that the wood has been heat-treated appropriately and is free of pest infestations – especially important to ensure pests aren’t transported between countries, and when the packaging is being used to transport food and other similar products. This heat treatment will often take place as part of the sawmill kilning process allowing such boards to be sold as ISPM 15 compliant.
- Pallet Blocks: Small square or rectangular Pallet Blocks between 100mm and 150mm in cross section and between 75 and 100mm thick are typically cut from larger sections of wood or made from other materials such as compressed heated sawdust, which is then formed into a specific shape and size. These are then used to form the blocks between the pallet boards and in the corners of pallets to give them their height.
- Replacement Pallet materials: Wooden pallets may be used and repaired many times during their working life. Components within the pallet will often be replaced with new or reused pallet boards during this process.
Wooden pallets are about maximising strength and minimising material used. This means the wood used must be strong but not necessarily pretty. The small sections and relatively short lengths allow a very efficient use of the wood resource, utilising many different species and parts of the log that may not be suitable for other applications.
Pallet boards and blocks are made from both hardwoods and softwoods, though softwoods are more popular because their greater commercial utilization means they are often more cost-effective. They can also be a mixture of hardwoods and softwoods. The use of hardwoods for pallet materials provides a strong and consistent market allowing forests and sawmills to maximise this underutilized resource. Sustainable forest management is always the most critical factor when sourcing pallet materials Common wood materials used to make pallets are:
The standard size for UK pallets is 1200x1000mm, with European pallets traditionally measuring 1200x800mm.
BS ISO TR 11444 – Quality of sawn wood used for the construction of wood pallets
BS ISO 18333 – Pallets for materials handling. Quality of new wooden components for flat pallets.
All wood used for export packaging must be ISPM-15 compliant, which is usually by achieved by using specific kilning schedules for these grades of wood. This special kilning helps to sterilise the wood against insects, bacteria and other contaminants.