The humble pallet may not be the first thing we think of when we consider environmental sustainability, but they have an important role to play. Considering its vital position in the supply chain, the pallet bears the weight of a lot of environmental responsibility. With over 849 million wood pallets produced each year, having a low carbon footprint is important. Of those 849 million pallets, 341 million are recycled, which is already a step in the right direction for waste reduction. Wood pallets can be repaired and reused multiple times, and once they reach the end of their life cycle, can be turned into mulch and other useful materials.
Since pallets can be repurposed, they have the potential to have a net positive carbon impact. Wood fuel can be used in place of natural gas in some instances, leading to carbon offsets. Close to 95 percent of pallets are recycled and repurposed, and the few that do end up in landfills are often recovered and used as biodegradable material. Wood is our only 100 percent renewable, reusable and recyclable material, and it takes next to no energy to create, since trees use abundant resources like the sun and carbon dioxide to grow on their own.
Pallets are also good for forests. This may sound counterintuitive, since pallets are made from the wood of trees that have been cut down, which seems as though it would deplete our forests. However, pallets are made from the leftovers of wood used in other essential products, like furniture and building materials. Lumber is not typically harvested for the express purpose of building pallets, but rather pallets are made from the wood that might have gone to waste otherwise. North American forests are far from depleted; in fact, net growth has been about double the harvest volume for the past several years.
Sustainable harvesting of forests is an important part of keeping those forests healthy. Denser forests, with large amounts of brush and small trees, are more likely to experience wildfires, and the overcrowding of trees causes them to have to compete for finite nutrients in the soil. When forests are harvested sustainably, the timber that is left behind has a better chance of growing stronger.
We only have one Earth, and we all have a part to play in caring for our planet. Sustaining our forests is a big part of that effort, since trees provide us with clean air and clean water. To help reduce waste, you can also repurpose pallets in your own home with do-it-yourself pallet projects that can save you money. Millwood team members at our corporate location are doing their part for Earth Day by organizing a cleanup in their own communities. Stay tuned for our next blog post to learn more!