Wooden Pallets Vs Plastic Pallets

Wooden pallets will always have their place in the supply chain but as the logistics industry adapts to face the various challenges of the 21st century, the long held love affair with the wooden pallet is well and truly over.

We detail some of the main reasons below but at a glance, these are just a few of the attributes plastic pallets have over the wooden pallet.

  • Plastic pallets could save you as much as £230,000 over ten years in comparison to wooden pallets
  • Plastic pallets are lighter than wooden pallets and can be nested, saving you money in transportation
  • Plastic pallets are durable and robust, manufactured in one solid piece
  • Plastic pallets can last up to 10 years or more and be used repeatedly; often lasting around 250 trips in comparison to wooden pallets which will only last around 11 trips
  • Plastic pallet offer easier manual handling
  • Plastic pallets are easy to clean and hygienic
  • Plastic pallets are the responsible solution with 93% of our pallets made from recycled plastic and 100% can be recycled at the end of their life
  • Plastic pallets are more reliable in automation and can streamline processes.

There’s a great many reasons why plastic pallets are increasingly the most cost effective sustainable solution.

Buying new plastic pallets instead of new wooden pallets will save you money

Whilst the initial outlay is higher, investing in new plastic pallets as opposed to new wooden pallets, pays dividends in the long run.

SCENARIO A: You buy new plastic pallets
You purchased 5000 new, heavy duty, plastic pallets at £40 each.
These pallets are used for 5 years, where you replace 10% during the five years.
Your total costs would be £220,000 less £20,000, which is their recycling value at the end of their life.
TOTAL COST: £200,000

SCENARIO B: You buy new wooden pallets
You buy 5000 new wooden pallets at £20 each.
Your initial outlay is £100,000
However you are likely to replace around 35% every year due to breakages.
TOTAL COST: £275,000

As such, buy plastic pallets could save you £75,000 over five years.

Take the same scenario over a ten year period replacing 20% of the pallets.

Total costs for plastic £220,000
Total cost for wood £450,000
And a total difference of £230,000.

However, these scenarios don’t take into consideration the costs associated with product losses through failing pallets, jammed automation, debris and broken wooden pallet removal.

What about used wooden pallets?

With the wood shortage continuing, some customers have been turning to used wooden pallets. Demand is high and availability low.

Used wooden pallets are cheaper than the heavy duty wooden counterpart, but they come with their own set of challenges, not to mention a shorter life span to that of new wooden pallets.

Used wooden pallets cost around £6 or £7. This is the same price as a new Nestable plastic pallet, but why make the switch?

The benefits of switching from used wooden pallets to new nestable plastic pallets:

  • Used wooden pallets and new nestable plastic pallet cost the same price
  • New nestable plastic pallets are always available and in big quantities
  • New nestable plastic pallets are lighter, and easier to handle and even pick up and safer for your staff to use
  • Due to their nestable attributes, new nestable plastic pallets take up less space in your warehouse
  • A full truck load of used wooden pallets will contain about 450, whereas a full truck load of nestable pallets is close to 1500
  • Used wooden pallets stack in 18’s, where as new nestable plastic pallets stack in 55’s
  • When you receive your order of used wooden pallets there will always be a percentage that you will need to reject due to breakages; not the case with new nestable plastic pallets
  • New nestable pallets available perfectly clean and are easy to maintain and keep clean

Whichever way you look at it, buying plastic pallets instead of the wooden alternative will save you money.

Plastic pallets save money in transportation

Plastic pallets are lighter than wooden pallets. A typical plastic pallet weighs around 22 kilos whereas a wooden pallet can weigh around 40 kilos. With fuel costs now at an all time high, reducing pallet weight means big savings in fuel costs when transporting goods by road, sea, or air.

Nestable plastic pallets have the added design benefit of neatly stacking into each other saving precious space when empty on a lorry or in a warehouse.

Plastic pallets are durable and robust

Plastic pallets are much stronger and more reliable compared to their weaker wooden counterparts. Plastic pallets do not have inherent weak spots thanks to the way they are manufactured – in one solid piece.

However, wooden pallets are much more susceptible to damage. Nails and slats can become loose when the wood shrinks over time. Wood can also splinter and break causing damage to the products and goods they are transporting or storing, as well as cause health and safety issues for operatives. On top of that there is also the additional transportation costs of loads that have to be returned and repacked.

Plastic pallets last for 10 years

Plastic pallets are designed and built to be used multiple times over many years. A plastic pallet will usually last 250 trips with no maintenance required. On the flipside, a wooden pallet will typically only last 11 trips before it is unusable. During that time there are the additional costs associated with the upkeep of each wooden pallet. This means for every one plastic pallet you will need to buy and maintain roughly nine wooden pallets.

Easier manual handling

Plastic pallets are easier to handle, move and stack in a warehouse. Being lighter they are the safer option for your workplace and workforce when manual handling is involved. Wooden pallets can of course give way, snag or snap if mishandled causing damage to machinery as well as individuals.

Plastic pallets are easy to clean

In industries where hygiene is paramount, like food and pharmaceutical, plastic pallets are the best option. Wood is naturally porous and absorbs water over time leading to a build up of mould and mildew. This means there is a higher chance of contamination to perishable products through the spread of fungal spores than can be passed on to consumers.

Cleaning wooden pallets is also both difficult and expensive. Any repaired, remanufactured or modified wooden pallets needs to be retreated to show it meets ISPM 15 standards. Whereas plastic pallets are easy to sterilise, cannot absorb water that might cause fungal contamination and do not require ISPM 15 certification.

Plastic pallets are the responsible solution

The idea that a pallet made of wood is better for the environment is simply not the case. Wooden pallet manufacturing can be linked to unnecessary deforestation as it takes one tree to make just four wooden pallets. Depending on the timber, these pallets can vary in quality and therefore may not last very long. And if they are broken and unusable, they often end up in landfill.

Currently, 93% of our plastic pallets are made from recycled post-consumer plastic and redundant plastic pallets and boxes. We make use of the valuable plastic resource that already exists to create the next wave of plastic pallets.

The manufacturing process is also more environmentally friendly than the manufacturing of wooded pallets. 1 tonne of recycled plastic saves around 2 tonnes of CO2 emissions, 5,774 kilowatt hours of energy, 16.3 barrels of oil, 98 million BTUs of energy and 22 cubic meters of landfill.

We are committed to driving the circular economy and helping our customers to create a sustainable supply chain. In 2019, we pioneered the UK plastic pallet industry’s first plastic pallet recycling scheme, making a commitment to recycle all of our plastic products we supply to turn them used into the useful once again.

Plastic pallets are more reliable

A wide range of industries are now turning to Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems (ASRS) to maximise the speed and efficiency of their operations. But these systems are only ever optimal if the components used are optimal. Damaged wooden pallets can severely impact automated systems, causing malfunctions that lead to unnecessary downtime. Loose slats or loose nails from a damaged wooden pallet can jam a system and cause hundreds of pounds worth of damage to vital equipment. This could have an even bigger knock-on effect resulting in lost revenue and unhappy customers.

However, there are none of these interruptions if the system adopts plastic pallets. Plastic pallets resist damage, offer more stable loads with precise weights and dimensions and their durable construction means big reductions in Foreign Object Damage (FOD). When storing goods in racking systems, plastic pallets offer minimal deflection where possible ensuring consistent shape and dimensions are maintained. All of these features mean a greater return on investment for ASRS-equipped supply chains.

As The Responsible Plastic Pallet Company we want to provide our customers with quality products that offer high performance, long term savings whilst also being good for the planet. Get in touch with one of the team today. With a combined 160 years of expertise our team can find you the right pallet solution whatever your logistics needs.


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If you are considering moving from wooden pallets to plastic pallets, then talk to us today.

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