A remarkable 95% of wood pallets are being recycled, according to preliminary research conducted by Virginia Tech. The study of the disposal of wood pallets at landfill sites, conducted over the last two years, shows that wood pallets are increasingly being reused as long as possible, and then are being converted to mulch, animal bedding, or biofuel. The number of pallets entering the landfill has dropped by 86% over the last two decades – and when pallets do arrive at landfills, both municipal and solid waste (MSW) and construction and demolition (C&D) facilities are recycling them even further, according to the study.
Companies, manufacturers and retailers are increasingly recycling pallets, particularly when they are within a reasonable distance from a pallet recycler or a company that grinds pallets into mulch. Some companies have developed their own crew to repair pallets, Virginia Tech researchers told Environmental Leader.
Additionally, “there’s a value to a used pallet, so companies are financially incentivized to have the pallet recycled,” a spokesperson from the National Wooden Pallet & Container Association (NWPCA) told us. Environmental awareness, limited space and a desire to be more waste efficient are factors driving the increased recycling on wood pallets.
Additionally, zero-waste policies from companies like Volvo Trucks are driving the recycling of pallets; bound by their commitments to send nothing to landfills, these companies are driven to repurpose the pallets instead of landfilling them, the NWPCA points out.
“Our industry is thrilled that the data proves the wood packaging sector, more than any other, is closing in on zero-waste,” said Larry Howell of Cottondale Wood Products and NWPCA Chair. “Wood pallets are 100% recyclable, and the newest research from Virginia Tech shows that our industry has the highest recovery rate at 95%, compared to other prevalent materials.”