Going Green: Improving Sustainability in Pallet Shipping
Tuesday 25th April 2023 | View all Blogs

As more and more businesses lean towards sustainable practices, there’s an increasing demand for eco-friendly shipping solutions, and pallet delivery is no exception.

In this blog, we’ll explore some practical tips when shipping your pallets and discover how you can increase your environmental efforts.

The Holy Trinity of Sustainability

Reducing, reusing and recycling are the three key strategies for increasing sustainability, not only in general, but also in pallet shipping too!

Firstly, reducing the usage of unnecessary materials in our pallets can have a huge effect on our sustainability efforts. 

By purchasing lightweight pallets, stacking your goods in a way that requires fewer materials or swapping materials out for more eco-friendly choices, you’ll be well on your way to reducing your environmental impact by conserving resources and reducing waste.

pallet jack with scales

Not only is a lighter pallet shipment great for the environment as less fuel is required to power the vehicle that moves your goods, but your wallet will also appreciate it, too!

The next part of the holy trinity of sustainability is to reuse your pallets as much as you can.

Did you know: you can reuse a standard wooden pallet up to nine times?

When reusing your pallets, it’s crucial to ensure they’re still in good nick. To do this, examine the pallet around all 6 faces to ensure there are no cracks, rotting or breakages. You may also want to check that the joints are still sturdy and not coming loose. 

Pallets bear a lot of weight in their lifetime. In fact, a standard wooden pallet can withstand up to two tonnes, so it’s important to check it’s still in tip-top shape before you reuse them.

Recycling your pallets is the third and final part of the trinity, and it’s our favourite! Not only do you help the environment by avoiding landfill, but you also get to turn your creative brain on and get artsy.

Once your pallets have reached the end of their weight-bearing life, you can recycle them in a couple of ways. The first way is the easiest, and involves simply taking your pallet to a household recycling centre; most will happily accept used pallets.

The second (and most fun!) way to recycle your pallets is to get creative and upcycle them into something new. We’ve got a few pallet projects that you can do to increase your sustainability efforts and get creative! From signs to beds, you can make it all.

Because the majority of pallets are wooden, which is a renewable resource, they can contribute to a circular economy.

circular economy wooden blocks

The concept of a circular economy has become increasingly popular in the logistics industry, and is an economic and environmental model that focuses on regenerative and sustainable shipping practices. Pallets are a vital aspect of the circular economy as logistics firm shift their focus on trying to reuse and recycle pallets rather than sending them to landfill.

Choosing Sustainable Materials

It’s no secret that the type of materials we use to ship our goods has a significant impact on our environmental impact.

Pallets can be made from a wide range of materials, and each have their advantages and disadvantages. For example, standard wooden pallets are great for the environment as, when they reach the end of their life, they will naturally start to decompose. Also, as they’re assembled with nails, wooden pallets are incredibly easy to take apart and repair.

Heat treated pallets are among the most environmentally friendly way to transport your goods. This type of wooden pallet is heated to a temperature of 140 degrees Celsius to ensure they are safe to use, rather than using toxic chemicals like methyl bromide. 

Another material that is increasing in popularity is plastic pallets. These are usually made from polypropylene or polyethylene, and can last for up to 10 years! Plastic pallets can also withstand up to 7 tonnes, which makes them a much better option for heavier shipments. 

plastic pallets stacked

However, plastic is not easily biodegradable and will take years to decompose. This is what we’re trying to avoid in a circular economy. Not only that, plastic pallets can cost up to 3 times more than their wooden counterparts. Also, as plastic pallets are moulded and not assembled, they can’t be repaired if they break, which is a massive benefit of traditional wooden bases. 

For those wishing to go the extra mile in their sustainability efforts, you can utilise an eco-friendly solution, such as Eco Pallet, that produce sustainable, durable and reusable pallets.

Optimising Pallet Loads

Increasing your eco-efforts goes well beyond the type of pallets you use. In fact, the most environmentally significant aspect of transport and logistics is the emissions generated by the vehicles on our roads, such as HGVs and forklifts. 

Although electric-powered HGVs may be ahead of us currently, there are some things we can do to reduce our environmental impact while our goods are on the road.

Just like bagging your groceries or packing boxes, knowing how to optimise your load is a vital skill to have, especially when you want to increase your environmental efforts.

If your goods are poorly loaded, you could risk losing space that you’d have if you loaded them strategically. This can result in you using more pallets than you actually need, which will not only result in higher shipping costs, but it also means your goods will take up more trailer space than they need to.

More trailer space means more HGVs will need to be on our roads, which is not good for the environment. 

If you’re shipping boxes, it’s wise to plan the stacking pattern beforehand. If the boxes are all of equal size, your best bet is to stack them into a column, whereas if your boxes aren’t equal, stack them in an interlocked pattern.

pallet stacking guide

To maximise the total area of your base, line the boxes close to the edge of the pallet, but make sure they never overhang.

So that your goods don’t collapse during transit, place the heaviest items at the bottom, and the lighter, less dense goods at the top.

You can then secure your goods with plenty of stretch wrap, and you’re good to go!

Sustainable Transportation

As mentioned, one of the biggest contributors to greenhouse gasses in logistics is transportation. As fully electric HGVs won’t become mainstream on our roads for a long time and the UK government’s HGV ban doesn’t come into effect until 2040, we need to explore other opportunities to reduce vehicle emissions in the logistics sector.

An often-overlooked contributor to emissions in the transport industry are forklifts. The majority of these rear-wheel-driven vehicles are still powered by fossil fuels such as petrol and diesel, but the popularity of fully-electric forklifts is rising.

In fact, PalletOnline are proud to adopt a fully electric forklift fleet, which has seen our warehouse emissions drop drastically!

A Green Outlook

Overall, improving sustainability in logistics has become an essential part of responsible management. By implementing the tips and strategies we’ve discussed in this blog, you’ll be well on your way to reducing your overall carbon footprint while saving money on your pallet deliveries.

For more top tips just like these, have a read of our Hints & Tips page!