Millions of pallets are built and used in the supply chains of Canada every year and so any innovation around these pallets can have a significantly positive and far reaching impact on overall logistics and supply chain performance.
The introduction of composite pallets is just such an innovation and in my humble opinion they are poised to be a major catalyst for supply chain improvements in logistics cost, service and supply chain sustainability.
As I began to research the use of composite pallets getting specific information on them, such as current levels of use and other details, was actually difficult. This was due to the fact that in all studies I’ve found to date, they are lumped into the category of plastic pallets even though they are different in some very important ways.
Let’s start by more specifically defining both Plastic and Composite pallets, followed by a quick comparison on some key characteristics.
Plastic pallets refer to pallets made of a thermoplastic polymer, the method of manufacture varies depending on the style and loading requirements, typical processes used include thermoforming, injection molding, and blow molding. The type of the material used is dependent on the manufacturing process and the majority of plastic pallets for the transportation and warehousing of goods are made of non-renewably sourced polyethylene or polypropylene resins.
Composite pallets are made of a reinforced thermosetting polymer (also known as FRP) and are a combination of various elements formed to create a single material. Composites can range in makeup and complexity, from high cost carbon fibre to lower cost bulk molded compound use in electrical applications. The oil or wetting percentage of these composites is very low compared with fossil fuel derived feed stocks for plastic pallets which are 100% tied to the price for a barrel of oil. With pallet materials in general, its about the cost to weight ratio, and this is where composites win hands down over wood, metals, and plastics. The preferred method to manufacture FRP is compression molding. The resins used for a composite pallet can be sourced from either non-renewable petroleum or renewable bio-derived feed-stocks.