Wood or Plastic Pallets: Which is Best for Your Business?

May 28, 2024
Written by Zach DoRflinger

Pallets are the silent but steady heroes of the logistics and supply chain industries, facilitating the movement and storage of goods worldwide. With businesses relying heavily on these humble platforms, the choice between wood and plastic pallets can be crucial. 

As a leading provider of pallet solutions, Pallets of Texas understands the importance of selecting the right pallets for your business needs. Not all pallets are created equal! Let's delve into the factors to consider when deciding between wood and plastic pallets.

What Are the Differences? Wood Versus Plastic Pallets

Wood pallets have long been a staple in the industry, known for their affordability, durability, and recyclability. Constructed from various types of wood, these pallets offer a sturdy platform for transporting goods across warehouses, distribution centers, and beyond. Plastic pallets, on the other hand, offer a modern alternative. Made from high-density polyethylene (HDPE) or other plastic resins, these pallets boast longevity, resistance to moisture and chemicals, and consistent sizing. The choice between these two options can feel complicated. We’ll break down the key factors to consider. 

Cost Considerations

Wood pallets typically have a lower initial price point than plastic pallets. However, it's essential to consider the long-term cost implications. While wood pallets may require more frequent maintenance and replacement, they offer greater durability and longevity, potentially resulting in lower total cost of ownership over time. Alternatively, plastic pallets have a higher starting price at around three times that of wooden pallets. 

Environmental Impact

Environmental sustainability is a growing concern for businesses across industries. Wood pallets are often favored for their recyclability and biodegradability. Pallets of Texas is committed to offering eco-friendly solutions, including recycled wood pallets, to help businesses minimize their environmental footprint. We even have a Pallet Buy Back program to facilitate reuse and recycling!

While plastic pallets can be recycled, they are not biodegradable, and storage can pose an environmental and safety risk. In the event of a fire, plastic pallets release more heat, about twice as much as wood pallets. They burn for longer and can melt, creating pools of dangerous hot liquid that make the fire spread faster. Most standard fire control systems in storage facilities can't handle the fire and heat produced by a high stack of plastic pallets. Thus, storing plastic pallets may require more attention - and cost.

Performance and Durability

Performance and durability are critical factors to consider when choosing pallets for your business. Wood pallets are known for their strength and load-bearing capacity, making them suitable for heavy-duty applications. They can withstand rough handling and harsh environments, ensuring reliable performance throughout their lifespan. However, wood is an organic material and can break or degrade over time. For those concerned about rot or pests, heat-treated wood pallets are a great solution. Many of our clients prefer heat-treated pallets because they're stronger and last longer than regular wooden pallets while eliminating the risk of pests and pathogens.

Plastic pallets can be a great option for shipping organic materials like food or plants. Their smooth, closed surface makes them easy to clean and maintain hygiene, and they are designed to work seamlessly with both manual and automated washing systems. However, plastic pallets typically have a lower weight-bearing capacity compared to wood pallets, topping out at around 1,500 pounds. This limitation makes them unsuitable for transporting very heavy items. 

Here's one operator's opinion from a popular online forum: "as an operator I'd take wood over plastic any day, plastic pallets slip and slide way easier on the fork tines, also when plastic pallets carry loads that aren't that even that heavy - less that 600kg (1322lbs) I've still seen many of the less sturdy plastic pallets that bend and buckle in racking"

Compliance and Regulation

Compliance with industry standards and regulations is essential, particularly for businesses involved in international trade. Wood pallets must meet ISPM 15 regulations for heat treatment to prevent the spread of pests and diseases. Pallets of Texas ensures that all our heat-treated wood pallets comply with these regulations, providing businesses with peace of mind when shipping goods globally. Plastic pallets are not subject to these regulations due to their non-organic nature.

Customization and Special Requirements

Every business has unique needs and specifications when it comes to pallets. Whether you require custom sizing, specialized features, or specific treatments for your wood pallets, Pallets of Texas offers tailored solutions to meet your requirements. Our team works closely with clients to understand their needs and deliver pallets that exceed expectations.

Plastic molds typically come in standard sizes, as they’re created from a mold. While this serves many industries and purposes, if you have a more unique need, wood pallets are a better option for customization. 

Pros and Cons of Different Pallet Materials

Sometimes it can feel overwhelming to determine your pallet needs. If that’s the case, a quick pros and cons list can help you narrow down your specific needs or concerns to find the right fit for your business. 

Wood Pros:

  • Affordability
  • Durability
  • Easier to customize
  • Recyclability
  • Suitable for heavy-duty applications

Wood Cons:

  • Prone to splintering and damage
  • Susceptible to moisture and rot
  • Heavier and bulkier than plastic pallets

Heat-Treated Wood Pros:

  • Compliance with international shipping regulations
  • Retains the durability and recyclability of wood pallets
  • Provides added protection against pests and diseases
  • Custom sizing available

Heat-Treated Wood Cons:

  • Higher cost compared to untreated wood pallets
  • Requires additional processing and certification

Plastic Pros:

  • Longevity
  • Resistance to moisture, chemicals, and pests
  • Consistent sizing and weight
  • Easy to clean and sanitize

Plastic Cons:

  • Higher initial cost compared to wood pallets
  • Limited recyclability
  • Potential for warping or cracking in extreme temperatures
  • Maxes out at lower cargo weights

Which is the Best Choice for Your Business?

Wooden pallets have been a fundamental element of the logistics industry for many years due to several compelling factors. First, they are known for their affordability, offering businesses a cost-effective solution without compromising on quality. Additionally, wood's inherent strength and resilience make wood pallets capable of withstanding heavy loads and rough handling, ensuring long-lasting performance in transportation and storage.

Moreover, wood pallets contribute to sustainability efforts with their high recyclability, minimizing waste, and promoting circularity within the supply chain. Their versatility allows them to cater to various applications and industries, whether for shipping, storage, or display purposes. Additionally, wood pallets are easily repairable, enabling simple fixes like replacing damaged boards to extend their lifespan and maximize their value.

Compliance with international shipping regulations ensures seamless transportation of goods across borders, further solidifying wood pallets' reliability and suitability for cross-border trade. Lastly, their longstanding history and proven track record within the industry have earned wood pallets the trust of businesses worldwide, making them a preferred choice for companies seeking dependable pallet solutions.

All this is to say that wood pallets remain a reliable and cost-effective choice for businesses across industries. They offer a winning combination of affordability, durability, recyclability, versatility, repairability, compliance, and trustworthiness. While plastic pallets have some distinct benefits, they tend to be more limited in scope.   

At Pallets of Texas, we are committed to providing high-quality wood pallets tailored to meet our customers' unique needs. Contact us today to learn more about our wood pallet offerings and how we can support your business operations.

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