Paper Pallets? What the Hell is That?

When you think of pallets, you likely thinkof traditional wooden pallets, and rightfully so. Traditional wooden palletshave been in circulation since the 1920’s and there are over 2 billion of these types of pallets in circulation, so you see them a lot. In the supply chaintraditional wooden pallets bear the brunt of material movement, storage, stacking and more. Today, there is something new on the scene in the supply chain, that may make you go “huh?”. Paper pallets!

When you think of paper, durability is not the first thing that comes to mind, but paper pallets are not flimsy tools, asa matter of fact they are very sturdy tools that can be the solution to many of your supply chain needs.

A Brief History of Paper Pallets

The inception of paper pallets was conceived to meet two supply chain needs:

  • Reduce the weight of the pallets thereby reduce the cost of shipping
  • Eliminate the need to return pallets again thereby reducing costs
Wooden Pallet

This is not really a new idea, although itmay be a new concept to many in the supply chain. Since the 1940’s when 4-wayheavier pallets first made the supply chain scene, there has been a distinctdesire to “build a better mouse trap” so to speak. There is one very noticeable thing about any pallet, it is heavy. Getting that weight under control has beena goal since the inception of the pallet. Added weight adds up the shipping costs rather quickly.

The revolution in packaging started with Norman Cahners an employee at U.S. Navy Materials Handling Laboratory in Hingham Mass. During World War II who was convinced that corrugated cardboard sheets were the solution to the heavy weight issue. His designs were the birthof today’s modern paper pallets, but they often failed back in the 1940’s. Mr.Cahners went on to work in the private sector after the war and focused hisentire career on overcoming the obstacles of creating the perfect paper pallet.

Today’s Paper Pallets

Today paper pallets are a familiar sightespecially on international shipping. Today’s paper pallets succeed whereyesterdays paper pallets failed because of good engineering. There are a fewfacts about these types of pallets that may surprise you, like, while you may not be familiar with these types of pallets, it is reported that 94% of transported goods spend some time on a paper pallet! Other facts include:

  • Considering the cost and the relatively low weight of these types ofpallets, they are very resilient.
  • They are super eco-friendly. They are mainly composed of recycledfiber content.
  • Another nod to their eco friendliness is there 100% recyclability.
  • The American OSHA loves paper pallets. They do not require anynails, they never leave a splinter behind and you won’t find a staple or afastener in them.
  • They are 1/3rd the weight of traditional wooden palletsand ring in between 13kg-16kg.

Engineers have done an amazing job atcreating specifications that make pallets made of recycled paper strong, durable and lightweight.

Number One Question? How Much Weight Can They Hold?

There are a lot of myths about the weightload capabilities of paper pallets. The fact is while they can carry theirshare of weight, wood pallets can carry far more. If you hold wood in one handand corrugated cardboard in the other, there is a clear difference in strengthbut is there really? What if you were told that 15 pounds of paper could roughly hold:

  • Around 10 grand pianos
  • Over 300 bushels of apples
  • A small compact car

Would you believe that? It sounds far fetched but it is all true. A paper pallet can hold up to 4536 kg compared to 2087 kg that a wooden pallet can hold! How in the world can paper hold more than wood you may be asking yourself? It is all in the engineering. Amazing things can happen when engineers put their mind to it and paper pallets are a fine example of what the right engineering can do!

The Engineering of the Paper Pallet

The secret to the strength of a corrugated pallet is the engineering design. These pallets are made from corrugated paper. Corrugated paper is very thick paper board that is commonly used for packaging materials. The paper is grooved and ridged alternatively to create layers of strong paper material.  Just like wooden pallets, corrugated paper pallets are stronger on one axis than the other.

Each layer complements the other layers andstrengthens them by using tension.

Engineers have designed these pallets to save weight by using different parts to support each other. They are purposefully built to withstand great weight because of their tension design. The result is a very heavy-duty load carrier that is cheaper to ship!

Wooden Pallet Scheme

The Benefits of Paper Pallets

There are some great advantages to thepaper pallet when compared to the wooden pallet:

  • Lighter shipping weights
  • No ISPM15 concerns
  • Custom designs
  • Fully recyclable
  • Earth friendly
  • Cost effective

Corrugated paper pallets save! They save on shipping costs they are cheaper to purchase, they save on waste disposal costsand help to save the planet. They are constructed from already recycled fibersand can be 100% recycled at the end of their useful life cycle. A wooden palletcan weigh up to 3 times more than a paper pallet, when you consider how much shipping weight that saves, the savings you realize can be tremendous. The savings is especially tremendous when it comes to shipping by air. You can ship more for less!

ISPM15 regulations are in place to ensure that parasites and insects living in wood do not get transported from one country to another. Insects, wood disease and parasites can be invasive to plant life and cause a serious upset in the eco system. Wooden pallets must be treated to comply. The problem is it can be difficult to tell by sight if apallet meets the ISPM15 requirements. The ISPM15 concern is a valid concern.When you ship using wooden pallets, the custom agent can delay your shipment simply because they are unable to tell if your pallet is ISPM15 certified. With corrugated pallets, ISPM15 regulation are not an issue.

These paper pallets easily pass inspection at customs and help you to avoid delays. There are no special regulations that corrugated pallets must comply with to meet custom demands. They pass effortlessly through customs and help to get your goods to their intended recipients.

They can be customized to your specifications and product needs easily. They are a great option especially for loads that cannot be loaded on to traditional standard pallets.

They are good for the planet. While it does take trees to create the content that goes into making paper pallets, because they are 100% recyclable the impact is minimalized. Most corrugated pallets in circulation today are already created from recycled content, once they reach their limit of usefulness they are recycled again. Very rarely are “new” paper pallets created using “new” paper content.

The Safety Factor

Reducing risk is critically important in the warehouse. Injuries are common and costly. The beauty of paper pallets is that not only are they cost-effective options, durable options, they are also risk reducing options.

No nails, no staples, no fasteners, no splinters all equate to less risk of injury in the warehouse and other areas of the supply chain. You get the same great capabilities that you get with wooden pallets but without any of the risk of personal injury.

Wooden Pallets

Improve Corporate Reputation

In today’s economy, consumers are paying attention to every section of the supply chain and what corporate policies are for limiting their impact on the environment. With paper pallets corporations can send the message that they are serious about reducing their impact on the environment. They are a win-win situation all around.

Are They for You?

Of course, you are left with the final question, can paper pallets work for your operation? The answer is, it likely can work for your operation. Gathering more information about corrugated pallets can help you to make an informed decision about whether this is the best solution for your supply chain activities.

A good bet is that it will integrate perfectly into your operation and help you to optimize not only your processes but to help you save some cash while you do it.

By far corrugated pallets are the wave of the future because of their eco-friendliness, low cost, reduced weight and no return capabilities. More business will turn to paper pallets as a solution to reduce, reuse and recycle their warehouse products.