Throwback Thursday: The Pallet Black Market

How do we avoid losing pallets? Considering that there are nearly two billion pallets in circulation each day, keeping track of each one of them is simply not feasible. However, lost pallets add up. According to Packaging Revolution, the cost of replacing lost packaging, including pallets, cost American businesses between $750 million and $1 billion per year. One cause of these losses is theft.

Thieves steal pallets for their own purposes or to resell them. Plastic pallets are often sold to recyclers, and wooden pallets can be taken apart and repurposed or recycled as well. Some of this theft consists of individual actors, but there have been known organized crime rings centered on stealing pallets, sometimes with entire recycling facilities being implicated in the crimes. In some places, pallet theft is so rampant that many are unaware it’s even illegal.

Some amount of loss is to be expected as the cost of doing business, but pallet theft is far from inevitable. There are ways you can protect yourself against pallet theft, potentially saving thousands.

  1. Monitor your pallet inventory. Many pallet thieves get away with their crimes because businesses don’t bother to report when pallets have been stolen, leading to less involvement from law enforcement. Stealing pallets is seen as an easy opportunity because thieves will rarely face consequences for it. Keep an eye on your pallets, keep them in a safe place, and if you know pallets have been stolen, report it right away.
  2. Use technology to track your pallets. Many companies have started using RFID chips and barcodes on their pallets to help account for each one as well as recover stolen pallets. Involving partners and vendors in this accounting process will help keep track of pallets and cut costs for all involved. Millwood offers a proprietary inventory tracker called PalletView that can help you manage your assets by letting you know exactly where your pallets are and in what quantities.
  3. Invest in security. Tighter security in places where pallets are kept may seem like an obvious step in preventing theft, but some companies overlook this part of the equation. Pallets are often stolen because they are in an easy-to-access area with little security. It’s a good idea to invest in some high-quality security cameras and motion detectors, which can deter thieves or aid in catching them if they do take your pallets.
  4. Utilize credit and debit programs. Some pallet companies – Millwood included – have programs in place that allow companies to receive credit for returning their used pallets. Utilizing these resources can help save on pallet costs.

The fact that pallet theft has the potential to be so lucrative to criminals goes to show how valuable and influential the humble pallet really is. Pallets are a critical component of the supply chain, so don’t let your pallets be an afterthought. Taking active steps to prevent theft is a huge opportunity to cut costs your business doesn’t need to bear.

This article was originally posted to Millwood's blog on February 26, 2021.

Author: Jessica Chizmar