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Why use plastic pallets instead of wooden pallets for exports?

In 2023, cost savings in the logistics industry are now more critical than ever. Fuel and machinery market price increases and many other budgetary pressures are pushing up operational costs across the sector. Now, across the supply chain, organisations are doubling down to find ways to reduce their logistics and transportation costs – especially when it comes to exporting goods.

Exporters, constantly striving to maintain a competitive edge in the global market, are seeking opportunities to minimise their costs to maximise profitability. Areas where they focus their cost-saving efforts include logistics and transportation (freight shipping by sea or rail, for example), where optimising routes, consolidation of shipments, and leveraging economies of scale can lead to significant savings. Additionally, exporters will constantly be reviewing warehousing services, how they utilise automation, and make better use of space and storage density.

Since pallets are essential to any business that ships products, it is no wonder everyone is asking the question: are plastic pallets better than wood?

Why use plastic pallets instead of wooden pallets for exports?

This blog explains why plastic pallets offer a better alternative to wooden pallets across the supply chain:

Why plastic pallets are such a good alternative to wooden pallets

Wooden pallets have long been the default choice, but now plastic pallets are a viable and cost-effective alternative. There are several advantages of using plastic pallets over wooden ones for exports and imports.

Strength and durability: Plastic pallets offer supreme strength and reliability and have a proven track record in all types of automated handling scenarios. They have a long working life through many cycles in the supply chain, whilst they are also fully recyclable, delivering a true return on investment and helping your business become more sustainable. Typically lasting far longer than their wooden counterparts, plastic pallets are ideal for frequent shipments to the same customer.

Versatility: Plastic pallets come in a vast range of types and sizes. This means there is a pallet style to suit a wide range of environments and purposes. Unfortunately, there’s no global standard for pallets, so different countries may use different standard pallet sizes – standard pallets in Europe, for example, are defined by their dimensions of 1200mm x 800mm, whilst the UK standard is 1200mm x 1000mm.

Freight costs: Plastic pallets are lighter than wooden units (they tend to be about 30% lighter than wood pallets of the same size and design), so freight rates are generally lower, whether by road, rail, sea or air, making them ideal for exports. In addition, plastic pallets will remain in use for many more cycles through the supply chain, providing a true return on investment over several years.

While plastic pallets may have a higher upfront cost, this is usually mitigated by a significantly lower cost per trip because they are lighter. For example, some of our lightweight pallets weigh just 3.2kg.

Exemption from ISPM15 regulations: The use of plastic pallets for exports is growing. Our export plastic pallets are exempt from the ISPM15 rules for heat-treated wood packaging, making them a cost-effective alternative to wooden pallets for exports. Nearly all countries worldwide adhere to the ISPM15 regulations to prevent the spread of pests from one country to another. Unlike wooden pallets, plastic pallets don’t need heat treatment or fumigation before export and therefore won’t suffer any inspection delays.

Environmentally friendly: With the world’s eyes on climate change and environmental matters, everything in business increasingly has an environmental calculation attached. Plastic pallets last longer and are recyclable, so they are environmentally friendly.

At, we’re extremely “sustainability aware”, so much so that it is engrained across the entire business – from the materials we use, to product application, to how they’re recycled at the end of their lifecycle. In fact, 93% of our plastic pallets are made from 100% recycled materials. Furthermore, when our pallets reach the end of their working life, they can be collected or sent back. They then get granulated and moulded into new pallets.

By using plastic pallets, you will be demonstrating your own commitment to the environment, improving your own reputation and helping you to attract like-minded customers.

Safe and easy to handle: Plastic pallets are safe and easy to handle. Unlike wooden pallets, there are no nails, sharp edges or splinters, this can help to minimise damage to products that are being shipped on the pallet. When exporting goods, it’s essential to make sure pallets are safe to handle throughout the shipment journey and sturdy enough to support the load.

Nestability: Nestable plastic pallets reduce storage volume considerably because they can be ‘nested’ into tall stacks when being stored or in transit when empty.

Favoured by the food and pharma industries: Because plastic pallets are easily cleaned, unaffected by moisture, weak acids and alkalis, and meet stringent hygiene requirements, particular sectors, such as food, agriculture and pharmaceuticals, favour them.

How much does a wooden pallet weigh vs a plastic pallet?

The average weight of a wooden pallet is much more than a similar-sized plastic pallet. Wooden pallets can weigh anything between 15kg and 70kg. So, how much does a plastic pallet weigh?

A typical plastic pallet weighs around 22 kg for a full perimeter, one tonne load rack specification – but lighter weight options are available for less heavy loads. Reducing pallet weight, where possible, means significant savings in export transportation costs!

How much weight can a plastic pallet hold vs a wooden pallet?

Plastic pallets are robust and offer an ideal solution for heavy loads and complex tasks. They are better than wooden pallets because they can support a higher static load without collapsing. When it comes to dynamic applications, plastic pallets are preferable because they have a higher capacity than wooden pallets. This ensures safety and stability when being moved with forklift trucks and other materials handling equipment.

Regarding racking capacity, plastic pallets can consistently support a maximum weight in the region of four times higher than a wooden alternative.

How hygienic are plastic pallets vs wooden pallets?

Plastic pallets win hands down on this point. In the pharmaceutical and food industries, hygienic pallets (with a smooth instead of a vented surface) are almost exclusively made from plastic. Plastic provides a consistent surface, with few places for water or foreign bodies to collect and cause contamination. Plastic pallets can also be machine or manually cleaned.

Questions commonly asked about wooden pallets include:

  • Are wooden pallets toxic?
  • Are wooden pallets treated?
  • Are wooden pallets treated with chemicals?
  • Are wooden pallets waterproof?

These are common issues with wooden pallets, in addition to rot, infestation, fumigation and odour absorption. All these problems are eliminated by using plastic pallets.

How are wooden pallets made vs plastic pallets?

It is helpful to consider how pallets are constructed to illustrate why plastic pallets are a viable alternative to their wooden counterparts when exporting goods. Wooden pallets are made using a top and bottom deck board, which are then typically held together by three or five runners. These are fastened together with screws or nails. Plastic pallets are injection moulded in one solid piece, ensuring that corner blocks, runners and decks are strong and resilient.

If you’d like to learn more about our export plastic pallets, or have any questions about plastic vs wooden pallets, contact our team on 01323 7444057 or at