Putting the words ‘pallet’ and ‘interesting’ together might not seem like the obvious choice, but there’s actually a lot more to these timber structures than meets the eye. A pallet is a flat, wooden platform that can be attached to machinery such as forklifts, front loaders or cranes.
Used for shipping, storing and transportation of goods or shipping containers, the two-deck composition makes it easy to securely move and handle heavy goods, with the most common design consisting of three or four stringers which support top and bottom deck boards.
The most common material for a pallet is wood, but they can also be made from plastic, metal, paper or various recycled materials. Read on below to learn more about these essential pieces of equipment and why pallets are so vital in our day to day lives.
A brief history
Before the invention of pallets, people used skids; a single-deck loading platform without a bottom deck (pallets have both top and bottom decks making them more stable). Skids were used as far back as the 1st Millennium BC in Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia.
Timber pallets were first introduced in the 1920s, soon after the forklift was invented, and by the 1940s were being widely used in the shipping, building and handling industries They completely transformed the way we handle merchandise and have had an unparalleled influence on how goods are still gathered, stored and transported to this day. Before the invention of the pallet, workers used wooden crates, kegs, barrels or boxes to move items, which could be awkward and time consuming.
The mass production of pallets really escalated during World War II, and a standard size was established, allowing allied countries to easily ship goods or machinery from place to place.
Nowadays, there are over 3 billion wooden pallets in circulation throughout Europe – that’s over 4 times the amount of people who live in the Europe combined!
The be be upcycled
Old or discarded wooden pallets have so many uses, and their durable material makes them perfect for upcycling into a variety of furniture, craft projects or garden accessories.
You can pick up second hand pallets easily online or from building merchants, often at very affordable prices or even free. There are so many versatile ways to turn pallet wood into some stunning furniture for your home, and you don’t have to be a DIY whizz to have a go either. The great things about pallets is that they can work with a variety of decor styles; leave the wood exposed for a rustic feel, or sand it down and paint for a sleeker, polished look. For beginners, stack and screw two pallets on top of each other to make a quick and easy coffee table, or add legs to make a sturdy table or desk. If you’re a bit more experienced working with wood or building materials then the possibilities really are endless; pallets can be turned into anything from sofas and chairs to beds, storage for shoes or clothes, bookshelves, or even a modern chandelier.
There are plenty more DIY projects and creative uses for recycled pallets apart from furniture. A standard pallet measure 40×48 inches so can be broken down and used to make smaller wooden items such as bird houses, clocks, photo frames or painted to make wall art. Many people have warmed to the rustic edge pallet wood can bring to their home, and you don’t need to have extensive carpentry experience to have a go for yourself.
Even when they have become too worn to transport heavy loads, pallets are still very sturdy and designed to withstand weather conditions and lots of weight, making them ideal for outdoor use. There are plenty of tutorials online explaining how to transform old pallets into garden benches, tables, planters for flowers or vegetables or even a full outdoor barbecue kitchen. Pallets have also been used to create skateboarding obstacles, animal cages or playground climbing frames. Just make sure the wood hasn’t been treated with any harmful chemicals and is free from splinters or cracks.
They’re environmentally friendly
Around 90% of all pallets are made from wooden timber, and of those a US survey found that 70% are made from recycled materials. Wood is of course, biodegradable, unlike plastic or metal, and the recycle rate for wooden pallets is a lot higher than for paper or plastic. Contrary to popular belief, pallet making is not a cause of deforestation either, the timber used is a byproduct of that used in the construction or furniture industries. The high quality wood is used to make those products first, and then pallets are constructed from the leftover off-cuts. Another common complaint is that too many pallets end up as landfill once out of use, but as explored above, many are upcycled into more useful items and in fact only 5% of pallets end up as landfill nowadays.
Finally, when they can no longer be used as a transportation aid or furniture, the majority of wooden pallets are further recycled into fuel, mulch, animal bedding or wood pellets.
At Brookfield Pallets we recycle any recovered scrap timber, which is turned into mulch and re-used in the manufacture of chipboard. Mulching is an incredibly environmentally friendly process and ensures nothing goes to waste or ends up as landfill. We can collect any old and unused pallets or other wood waste at a time to suit you, and guarantee an economical and green way to recycle your unwanted timber.
As a material, wood is a lot more affordable than alternatives such as metal or plastic. Plastic especially, which relies on crude oil, coal or natural gas for production, results in a large carbon footprint as well as costly production methods.
In comparison, wooden pallets can be produced relatively cheaply, using off cuts from wood used in other projects, as mentioned above. This can help businesses keep their costs low and the fact that pallets have many uses in home decor or furniture means they have a great cost return in the long run.
They’ve redefined modern logistics
Pallets are one of the most important logistical developments of the 20th century, and have enabled items to be loaded and transported like never before. They make transportation secure and efficient in comparison to the previous method of stacking boxes or crates on a skid, which was often not very secure. You may not realise just how much the modern world relies on pallets for the transportation of food and other consumer goods every day, and their efficient structure has enabled these to be transported quicker and more efficiently than ever.
Pallets are everywhere but often overlooked as scrap or unwanted junk, when in fact around 80% of US commerce alone is carried on pallets. Companies such as Ikea have even redesigned certain products to optimise pallet use, for example their ‘Bang’ mug which was altered so that 2,204 could fit on one pallet, rather than the original 864.
They’re essential to supply chain
They may have exciting uses beyond the warehouse but pallets play a crucial role in the supply chain as well as improving safety and loading times.
The pallet’s seemingly simple construction allows boxes, packages or products to be moved in bulk, reducing loading and unloading time and saving valuable time and money in the process. As discussed, their structure is also a lot safer and more secure for the workers moving the goods. A properly loaded pallet reduces the likelihood of accident or injury to workers caused by loosely stacked products.
Pallets also protect the products themselves if they have been loaded properly – stacking goods in bulk and wrapping or tying them together if needed prevents items slipping around and potentially becoming damaged.
At Brookfield Pallets we stock hundreds of wooden pallets to suit your every need throughout Birmingham and the Midlands. Whether you need shipping pallets, or pallets for storage and transportation, we’ve got you covered. All our pallets for sale have only been used once, or fully reconditioned to a high standard so you can be sure of the quality. Our pallet prices are very competitive too, with our reconditioned pallets offering top quality at a fraction of the cost. Visit the website to browse our range of UK, Euro and non-standard size pallets, plus pallet collars, roll cages and more.