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Pallet Management Fact Sheet
Office of Pollution Prevention
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Pallet management

Used pallets can present a serious disposal problem for businesses and industries. Which may be a working waste reduction or recycling program, a company must dispose of the pallets which may be accumulating on its loading dock, often at significant expense. Managers and owners who have problems with pallets should consider the following techniques.

Survey the situation

  • Examine the current use of pallets to determine why they become a waste.
  • Take note of the size, the types, and the number of pallets being purchased/hauled off and their use requirements.
  • Note the costs that your company incurs to purchase, handle, and dispose of the pallets.

Investigate waste elimination/reduction options

  • Have suppliers take back their pallets.
  • Ask customers to return pallets to you for reuse.
  • Investigate a no-pallet material handling system such as slipsheets or durable racks.
  • Change pallet size or quality specifications to promote reuse and recycling.
  • Use plastic lumber-type pallets made from post-consumer recycled plastic.

Consider pallet management strategies

Standardize pallet sizes

  • To reduce the number of pallets that your company is handling, consider standardizing the size of incoming and outgoing pallets.
  • Work with vendors to supply incoming materials on pallets that your company can use to ship out its final product.
  • In addition to handling and disposal costs for each pallet not reused, companies can pay up to $8.50 or more for each new full-sized pallet.
  • If standard-size pallets such as a 48 in. by 40 in. four-way are used, the markets and value for used pallets will improve as labor for sorting is reduced and the quantity of standard-sized pallets available is increased.
  • Standardization facilitates recycling.

Exchange pallets

  • One way to handle excess pallets is through exchanges between businesses.
  • Resulting agreements between businesses to exchange pallets can keep used pallets out of the waste stream and reduce costs for new materials.
  • Intra-county exchange programs can be expanded into larger regional waste exchanges to increase the material pool.
  • Another good exchange possibility is a sister facility that can exchange pallets with your plant.

Repair pallets

Donate pallets

  • Industries can give wooden pallets away to facilities that chip pallets for use as fuel, mulch, compost, or animal bedding if the pallets are not treated or contaminated with hazardous or toxic residuals.
  • Companies with a small number of pallets can give away clean scrap pallets to employees for firewood and, during the winter, to the public to fuel wood stoves.

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The information in this fact sheet was provided by the North Carolina Office of Waste Reduction.

This Pollution Prevention Fact Sheet is just one of the many resources available to you from DEQ. DEQ, through its Office of Pollution Prevention, provides free, voluntary, non-regulatory, technical assistance and materials to industry, governments, academia, non-profit organizations, and the general public on how to prevent pollution. For more information on pollution prevention strategies and techniques or to participate in Virginia’s annual Fall River Renaissance, please contact: