Recycled Pallets

Local collect, repair and reuse schemes have run since the 1950s. This has enabled pallet recyclers to offer both used and new pallets to buyers who can save on the cost of new and help reduce waste. This has expanded in recent years and national and local commercial schemes to recover and recycle pallets now exist across Europe. In Europe, the oldest international pallet reuse, repair and recycling scheme was of course the Europallet exchange scheme started by Austria in 1958 and now used across the world.

Timber pallet prior to repair

The pallet recovery industry became well organised during the 1980s and in the UK, Europe’s first pallet association dedicated to the reconditioning, repair and reuse of secondhand pallets was set up. This was the National Association of Pallet Distributors (NAPD) which grew in strength promoting what is now regarded as a desirable activity. Recycling on a local basis grew more strongly in the UK than Europe, partly because of the absence of the Europallet exchange scheme. The NAPD saw the benefit of starting work on a manufacturers quality guide to pallet recycling and repair and a technical committee started work in 1993. This was chaired by PalletLink and a pallet recycling document was developed as a National working draft eventually to be submitted to BSI. In 1995 this became the starting document for the eventual European (CEN) pallet repair standard EN ISO 18613: 2003: Pallets for materials handling - repair of flat wooden pallets.

The concept of multiple pallet reuse and repair and eventually reclaiming pallet materials at the end of their life is a sound one from every angle it is approached. The prestigious Virginia Polytechnic and State University (VPI) in the USA did a study of the quality of wood from used pallets versus new pallets and discovered that the average strength of recovered wood was some 11% greater than new wood. This was in fact due to the use of fresh sawn (wetter) wood in new pallets compared with well seasoned used pallet wood. The combination of well seasoned used pallet wood and the use of new nails were clearly shown by VPI to make strong pallets.

Helping the recycling concept the French Pallet Association (SYPAL) decided to monitor possible environmental contamination and took a large sample of Europallets from across France. They discovered that the levels of EU controlled contaminants such as lead, hexavalent chromium and mercury in pallets was miniscule and way below maximum permitted levels set by EC Directive 94/62 for the wood pallet and packaging industry.

In early 2000 the NAPD followed this up in a comprehensive analysis at a UK Government laboratory in Yorkshire and widened the search to other contaminating substances that might be present. The results were equally encouraging with 21 NAPD Member Companies submitting pallets for laboratory analysis the levels were again way below maximum permitted lead, hexavalent chromium and mercury levels set by the EU for packaging material. They were also encouraged by the absence of any other substances that may be prohibited in future. This and other independent work on life cycle analysis of timber pallets proved to everyone concerned that the wood pallet has the strongest green credentials and carbon footprint of any pallet material.

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PDF27c Summary of BS EN ISO 18613 repair of flat wooden pallets. (PDF 24kb)
PDF27c1 EN 18613 Pallet Repair FDIS (PDF 617kb)
PDF82a History of European pallet reuse repair and recycling. (PDF 73kb)
PDF82b Arrangements for unwanted pallet collections for recycling. (PDF 45kb)
PDF84a Brief summary of Producer Responsibility (Packaging Waste) Regulations. (PDF 83kb)
PDF84c DEFRA - Packaging Waste Regulations - Brief User Guide (PDF 259kb)
PDF84d DEFRA - Packaging Waste Regulations - 111 page User Guide (PDF 371kb)
PDF84e Pallet recycling increases so landfill unusual. (PDF 122kb)
PDF84m DEFRA - How to register as a producer of packaging (PDF 129kb)
PDF84n Laboratory tests on wood pallets for heavy metal limits for NAPD. (PDF 24kb)
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