Wood vs Plastic Pallets Part II – A General Comparison


Last week our blog discussed the comparison of shipping goods on wood and plastic pallets as they relate to those companies exporting cargo to retail partners, in particular those of the “big box” variety. As a follow up to that article we thought we’d provide a more general side by side comparison of wood and plastic pallets, considering that they are used to provide a secure transportable base for practically any company shipping cargo.

Wood vs Plastic Pallets for All-Purpose Shipping

1. Strength & Repair

Wood pallets are heavy and strong and certainly suffice for most shipping base needs. But it must be noted that because they are made of timber they get moist, they splinter, and their overall composition changes over long periods of time. Heavy-duty plastic pallets (as opposed to the ones commonly used in a retail setting) maintain their shipping integrity for their entire life. However, while wooden pallets are far more fragile and require more repair, they can be repaired. Plastic pallets on the other hand may suffer less damage but when they do you have to replace the unit entirely.

2. Injury

Most plastic pallets are lighter than wooden ones. This of course lends to safer scenarios if people are stacking them by hand after use. Those keeping wooden pallets in a warehouse for shipping will be better served using a high-stacker and not human powered lifting which can result in back problems. Wooden pallets can also splinter and have nails protruding from them when not built securely. This makes person-handling more of a concern as well. Wooden pallets for the most part are safe, but more attention must be paid when using them for your day to day shipping securement needs.

3. Stacking

The weight of wooden pallets makes them fairly stackable for times when goods have been removed from each. However over time wooden pallets can become uneven and less stable and so it is wise to inspect each after use. Most plastic pallets are designed in a building block format with male/female joining points that keep them in place when stacked, allowing the stack to both stand and be transported via mechanical lift without toppling.

4. Phytosanitary

Cratex Group released an article discussing the concerns of using timber when shipping cargo overseas, or even if it’s just around the corner across the border. When shipping goods to another country, timber as either the cargo itself or used to secure the goods (i.e. wooden pallets), must pass a rigorous inspection to prevent invasive species from entering the ecology, and economy, of the destination. Its ability to collect moisture (even if initially “in the clear”) makes it more susceptible to phytosanitary concerns. Thus, wooden pallets used in shipping are subject to more “red tape” and potential time in quarantine.

5. Cost

Plastic pallets cost much more than wooden pallets. 3 times as much in most circumstances. However a cost benefit analysis must factor in much more than a simple side by side price tag comparison. Consider the above four points. Depending upon your needs you must decide what’s better for your business in the long run.

Stay tuned for another blog update next week on an entirely new topic related to shipping your precious cargo. Until then, should you need any information regarding industrial packing and crating in the Greater Vancouver area please feel free to contact Cratex Group anytime.