Wood Pallets: Sustainable and Friendly to the Environment

In an era where we often hear about sustainability, global warming, and managing forests, it’s important to know some facts about the shipping and container industry and how it uses wood. Today, we’d like to speak to it from the perspective of a pallet manufacturer and specifically as a producer of wood pallets. Pallets do move the world! 

So many products travel around the world on a pallet. They move by truck, railroad, flight, and by water. Sometimes it’s a manufactured product that is shipped, and other times it’s a product for the food or agriculture industry. Wood happens to be one of the most eco-friendly materials that can be used to create a pallet. This is because it can be used multiple times, can be heat treated for a chemical-free way of shipping food products, and then when it’s no longer useful as a pallet, the wood can still be used for a byproduct to create new products, such as mulch, bedding, or bioenergy—wood pellets. 

Reusing pallets

One glance through Pinterest, and you’ll see that making craft projects and furniture from old pallets is popular. But we see a lot more use in a worn or damaged pallet. First, we can refurbish a pallet or repair it. We can add new boards to used stringers to create a “combo” pallet of new and old material. We can repair broken boards, or recondition a pallet to look like new. It can be rebuilt and heat-treated, or torn down to separate the unrepairable parts from the good parts. 

Not a scrap is wasted! Any boards that can’t be used for a pallet go into our waste wood stash to be used for our other non-pallet products. Nails in the boards? No worries! The Rotochopper separates out the nails as it shreds. 

Why wood is sustainable

Despite what we might be led to think, our forests are not depleted. In fact, according to the American Hardwood Export Council, North American forests are now growing at twice the rate of consumption. The timber industry plants 1.7 billion new trees every year, and in the last 35 years, global tree cover has increased 7.1%, according to satellite data. 

By comparing daily readings, the researchers were able to see small changes occurring regularly over a relatively long period of time—which added up to large changes. Over the entire span of 35 years, the researchers found that new tree cover had offset tree cover loss by approximately 2.24 million square kilometers—approximately the size of Texas and Alaska combined.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), “Forest growth nationally has exceeded harvest since the 1940s. By 1997, forest growth exceeded harvest by 42 percent and the volume of forest growth was 380 percent greater than it had been in 1920.”

What is a carbon footprint?

As they grow, trees use and store CO2, which means they help to fight against climate change. How? Since carbon dioxide is one of the main global warming gases and trees store CO2, they help to reduce its effect on the environment.  

When carbon is in the atmosphere it takes the form of carbon dioxide. If too much carbon dioxide (CO2) builds up in the atmosphere, it acts as a warming agent contributing to climate change. Trees can help restore a balance through the carbon cycle by absorbing carbon dioxide, storing it as carbon and releasing oxygen.

Carbon is stored in a tree by the process of photosynthesis. But that isn’t where it ends. Wood sinks and stores carbon. 

What is the difference in sinking and storing carbon?

A carbon sink is active—a mechanism that actively absorbs carbon dioxide. A carbon store is passive—an object that holds carbon dioxide as carbon as part of its structure and makeup. The carbon stored in the tree continues to be stored in the wood products made from the harvested tree, and beyond, through reuse and recycling.

This means that wood is sustainable (we can grow more trees), friendly to the environment (trees help to produce oxygen and sink carbon dioxide), and as a building material, the wood continues to store carbon dioxide. 

Our dedication to the environment

Because of the science behind the benefits of using wood for pallets, we’re dedicated to being responsible with the resources we have, and to using every part of the tree for something. We’re happy to see reports of an increase in the growth of new trees because we know the process of harvesting mature wood and growing more trees is also good for the environment. 

Poorly managed forests can be unhealthy and unproductive because of overcrowding, disease, insects, and competition for light, water, and nutrients. Foresters use a number of management techniques, including harvesting, prescribed burning, and reforestation to work to sustain the health of a forest. 

Therefore, we support the practice of carefully managing forests and responsibly using the wood that harvesting provides. 

Hay Creek Pallet is a division of Hay Creek Companies and is a full-service pallet manufacturing operation providing businesses in the food industries, the paper industry, and a variety of other industries, with reconditioned, remanufactured, and new pallets. Additionally, as a by-product utilization, the company also manufactures premium wood heat pellets, wood landscape mulch, and shredded wood animal bedding by recycling wood waste material (both new and used).

Hay Creek Companies is a member of The National Wooden Pallet & Container Association (NWPCA), which is the largest organization of wood packaging professionals in the world.