When you think of a shipping pallet, does the below image come to mind (wood on wood on wood)? While pallets are traditionally wood-manufactured, plastic pallets have become more prevalent in recent years as companies shipping often and in high volumes realize the advantages of this alternative. However, 90-95% of shippers still opt for the old-fashioned version (source).The truth is that each type of pallet has its own set of pros and cons and, at the end of the day, your decision will come down to more than just cost, durability or safety alone – a host of factors need to be weighed, and we'll take a look at these considerations below.
The classic option for many years, wood pallets remain the most common pallets used for domestic and international shipping alike. Their main advantages are low cost and ease of repair; primary disadvantages include porous surface susceptible to unwanted critters and fungus, as well as safety hazards from splintering wood and loose or rusted nails. Here is a more comprehensive list of the pros and cons of wooden pallets:
Your first discovery when comparing pallet options will be that the cost of plastic pallets is drastically – up to 3x – higher than wood pallets. This is the primary reason wood remains the favored option among shippers worldwide. Cost aside, plastic pallets boast several benefits, including greater durability and lifespan, weather resistance and bug resistance. But will these benefits outweigh the higher cost? This all depends on the nature of your supply chain. Here are the pros and cons of plastic:
To summarize this information and view the data side-by-side, here's a useful chart courtesy of Olympic, a pallet supplier and management company.
When choosing between wood and plastic pallets, consider all the factors above. Although the cost is greater, plastic might make sense if you're operating a closed-loop supply chain and the pallets will be returned and reused over and over again.
If your product is very heavy, wooden pallets are the right choice since they are better load-bearers than their plastic counterparts. If you've had issues with treating wooden pallets for international shipments in the past, it may be worth the peace of mind to go for plastic instead.
This decision is industry- and company-specific, so make the right choice based on your individual circumstances.
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