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Jim Hardisty talks to Handling & Storage Solutions Magazine

When Jim Hardisty and his business partner first set up their company supplying pallets, it was the wooden version that dominated the market, with plastic pallets confined mainly to the newspaper and flour industries. Now, 12 years on All Pallets has a specialist division solely for the supply of plastic pallets, which operates under the name And, while plastic pallets are still vastly out numbered by the wooden product overall, they can now be found across a growing range of applications as more and more industry sectors are switched on to the benefits of going plastic.

According to Hardisty, over the past four years one of the main drivers in the growing popularity of the plastic pallet has been raised awareness of hygiene issues.

“Food manufacturers have long used plastic pallets for the handling of raw materials and this has now travelled along the supply chain, with many supermarkets realising the advantages of a product that will not contaminate food with mould, splinters or dust,” he says. “The smooth surface of a plastic pallet also means there are less areas to harbour dust and they can be easily cleaned using pressure washers or automated systems.”

Another factor that has boosted demand for plastic pallets is the introduction in October 2003 of ISPM (International Standard for Phytosanitary Measures) 15. Aimed at reducing the risk of introducing and/or spreading quarantine pests associated with wood packaging material – for example the Asian longhorn beetle, pine wood nematode, etc. – the regulations stipulate phytosanitary treatments that must be undertaken for wood pallets to be accepted into the countries that choose to enforce the measures.

Although at the moment ISPM 15 is not currently a global requirement, the number of countries opting to implement it is growing and already includes China, Canada, India, much of Africa and South America, as well as the EU. In order to comply, wooden pallets can be heat treated or fumigated and officially marked as such – although this is not without its problems.

“As well as increasing the cost of wooden pallets, there have been issues over the authenticity of the marks made on the pallets to show that they have been treated to comply with the measures,” says Hardisty. “Goods for export have been turned away from the destination country because of questions arising from packaging fraudulently marked as compliant – and this is very expensive for all concerned.

“When you look at the lightweight, nestable plastic pallets now available there really is no question in my mind as to which is the most sensible option. Not only is the latest generation of plastic pallets comparable in price to the wooden alternatives, they also avoid any potential problems arising from ISPM 15.”

It’s not surprising then, that over the past 18 months, the biggest growth area for GoPlasticPallets has been for the export market. However, according to Hardisty there is also increased interest in the ‘special options’ available, such as ultra-hygienic versions for the pharmaceutical and food manufacturing sectors.

Unlike the majority of plastic pallet providers in the UK market, GoPlasticPallets sources its product from numerous manufacturers in locations as far apart as France and Malaysia. This means that whatever your plastic pallet requirements, Hardisty will be able to provide the closest match available. In fact, developments in the sector mean that the choice of plastic pallets available is ever widening, making a solution available for almost every application.

The latest manufacturing technique from one of GoPlasticPallets’ suppliers in Belgium, using gas injection technology, has produced a stronger pallet with an even smoother surface, while another manufacturer has produced a 1000kg capacity pallet weighing just 15kg compared with the 25kg previously required for a product with this strength. As well as reducing the cost of the pallet through the use of less raw material, this has benefits in terms of health and safety as much less effort is required to lift the pallet when empty.

As well as a product range that is, according to Hardisty, the most comprehensive available from a single source, GoPlasticPallets offers its customers an invaluable service in terms of market expertise.

“Having such an extensive range means that we are able to provide the vast majority of customers with a solution, however, it can also be confusing – particularly if it is the first time that plastic pallets have been considered as a option,” says Hardisty. “We are always on hand to advise and recommend the best option.”

“With wooden pallets, it is relatively simple to source a bespoke product, so there are a lot of odd sizes in use. With a plastic pallet, unless the order is huge, it’s not viable to produce a particular size for an individual application – but this shouldn’t put people off. Even if you think that the exact size you need is not available, it’s worth letting us have a look at your operation to see why an ‘odd’ sized pallet is needed. In most cases we can offer a plastic alternative to solve the problem, even if it is not a product that immediately springs to mind.”

Due to expand into larger premises in the near future, the company keeps around six weeks’ sales worth of plastic pallets ready to supply off-the-shelf. Combined with Hardisty’s background in distribution, this means that customers can be sure of a quick response. The aim is to respond to all enquiries received through the website within an hour and in the majority of cases a sample pallet can be with the customer the next day.

So, even if you think the plastic pallet cannot offer you a solution it is well worth getting in touch with GoPlasticPallets to find out about the products available and the benefits they can bring to your operation.

For more information call us on +44 (0) 1323 744057, or click here to arrange for us to call you.