Wooden pallets vs. Plastic pallets: What’s the difference?

Pallets form the building blocks of the supply chain. From transportation and storage to display, they are used in every step of the logistics and transportation process. Pallets are usually made of two materials – plastic or wood. We’ll take you through the difference between the two. We’ll also help you pick the best material for your shipping needs.

What are shipping pallets

A pallet is a flat-platformed block that provides structural support in the transfer and handling of products or machines. Think of them like Legos; cargo is loaded and secured on pallets to prevent any damage during transportation. They are also used to optimise arranging units in containers.

Where can I find good wooden pallets in Australia?

AXIS Industrial Solutions offers hardwood and timber pallets in a range of sizes. These food & pharmaceutical grade pallets are AS1604-H3-treated (as an alternative to unsustainable treatment practices). Made from heavy-duty hardwood, they are biodegradable and can be customised to any size. They are ideal for one-way export and lightweight air freight.

When it comes to the differences between plastic and wooden pallets, here are some questions you might have.

What pallets are cheaper?

Wooden pallets are cheaper than their plastic counterparts. While the actual cost depends on the type of lumber, wooden pallets cost significantly less than plastic ones.

Plastic pallets require a substantial initial investment. Additionally, plastic pellets present a higher loss-to-cost ratio. In case of non-return or forwarding of the shipment, you may incur a higher loss with plastic pallets.

What pallets are easy to repair?

Wooden pallets are easier to repair than plastic ones. This is because you can easily take wooden pallets apart and replace any broken boards. Plastic pallets must be replaced as a whole, which may contribute to more waste and expenses.

What pallets are better for the environment?

Sustainable packaging is important for every business. Both wooden and plastic pallets can be used in eco-friendly ways. Wooden pallets are biodegradable; they can also be recycled to produce paper and mulch. If your plastic pallets are made with recyclable plastic, they can be returned accordingly, making the cycle more sustainable. Plastic pallets can also be used for more trips when compared to wooden ones.

What pallets are easier to clean and maintain?

Since wood is organic, it is susceptible to insects, fungus, and bacterial growth. Additionally, splinters and stray metal fasteners and nails are safety hazards. Wood may rot on prolonged exposure to moisture. Plastic pellets are easier to clean because they are resistant to water and most cleaning agents (like steam washing and chemical sanitisation). They are 30% lighter than wooden pallets.

What pallets last longer?

The longevity of wooden pallets depends on the number of times they have been repaired. However, they are more prone to breakage and splintering when compared to plastic pellets. Wooden pellets may be prone to insects or fungal growth if stored in warm, moist places.

Plastic pallets have greater longevity (10+ years). They are also more durable because there is no risk of the material degrading over time. Note that the durability and strength of the plastic pallets depend on the type of plastic used.

Which pallets are easier to assemble?

Wooden pallets are easier to construct and assemble. Since they can be taken apart, they can be customised to suit the shape of your shipment. If your cargo needs a significant number of pallets, wooden pallets can be used to make assembly easier. They also offer more natural friction, which reduces the risk of cargo sliding off the pallet. Wooden pallets are more flexible than plastic.

Some plastic pellets come with an additional lip on the rim to prevent cargo from sliding off.

Which pallets can be used for international exports?

Wooden pallets have a low upfront cost, which makes them a more cost-effective option for international shipping. Note that all wooden pallets must adhere to ISPM 15 regulations before shipping.

Plastic pallets are preferable for cold storage items and heavier cargo.

The Bottom Line

The material of pallet you pick and (literally) make or break your supply chain. Both wooden and plastic pallets have their advantages. Doing your research and speaking to experts before you invest will ensure that you have the best shipping experience.