Plastic Pallets

Plastic pallets have been used now for many years but the penetration of the market in Europe and the USA is smaller than the Asia Pacific region. Part of the reason for low European market penetration is the many established timber pallet pools and exchange schemes, the ample supplies of timber, and the higher cost of plastic pallets. The pallet market in Europe and the USA is estimated at less than 10% of the timber pallet market. 

Plastic pallets are attractive for the food industry and some have been standardized, such as the German DIN 55423-5: 1995: Transportation chain for meat and meat products - small load carrier system - part 5: Pallet made from polyethylene. Such pallets have for some time been required to meet EU Directives such as 2004/1935/EC entitled Materials and articles intended to come into contact with food.

Plastic pallet inverted, showing
method of reinforcing blocks
and baseboards

Recycled plastic remoulded into pallets is clearly of benefit to the environment and industry continually tries to find more uses for recycled materials. One of the earliest recycling projects was started alongside the timber CP1 to CP9 pallet range in 1998 when the APME (Association of Polymer Manufacturers of Europe) sponsored development that produced plastic pallets entirely from recycled plastics known as pallets AP1 and AP2. The 1300 x 1100 and 1200 x 1000 pallets were aimed at competing with popular timber pallet sizes but suffered from structural performance disadvantages. Nevertheless these were successful designs from the look and feel point of view and formed a grounding for future recycled designs. In the plastics industry generally there have been strength improvements since then and plastic pallet makers have partly solved the main user complaint of creep deflection under long term load using reinforcing techniques, mixing recyclate with virgin material, using more advanced materials and using a more efficient section modulus in deck components.

With recycled plastics the user does not normally know the origin of the recycled plastic and results from laboratory tests sometimes can fall outside limits for heavy metals. Also recycled plastics are not consistently strong and they tend to be limited to lighter payloads. 

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