Plastic pallets vs wood pallets: Which is better for my shipping needs?

Chris Lund

By Chris Lund Business Development at King Solutions

Pallets make the world go round. The clothes you’re wearing, the beverage you’re drinking, the very computer or device you’re reading this on was mostly transported on a pallet at some point.

Pallets have been around for over 100 years, and they don’t appear to be going anywhere anytime soon (except whatever destination they’re being shipped to, of course). Because of this, it’s important to make sure you’re getting the most out of your pallets.

It can be easy to take pallets for granted in the grand scheme of shipping and logistics. But if you take a moment to think about how large of a role they play in your day-to-day activities, you might see an opportunity to optimize your business.

For many companies, the biggest question in terms of pallets is this: wood or plastic?

The advantages of wood pallets in shipping
Wood pallets are the most common pallets seen in the industry, due in part to the fact they’ve been around the longest. However, they’ve retained their popularity due to a number of distinct advantages.

Wood pallets are considerably cheaper, and they can typically hold more weight. Plus, if they break, they can be repaired.

The disadvantages of wood pallets
Wood pallets are more sensitive to the elements. In wet or humid climates, they can potentially rot and the nails holding them together can rust. So, depending on where you’re shipping your freight, this is something to consider.

Also, because they’re made of wood and nails, they’re not quite as safe and smooth as plastic pallets. If the wood splinters, or a nail gets bent, it could potentially damage your cargo.

Advantages of plastic pallets
Plastic pallets are durable, moisture resistant, and won’t harbor bugs like wood pallets sometimes will. There’s also less risk of them damaging your freight.

If your pallets are being returned to you after your cargo is delivered, they’re also highly reusable.

Disadvantages of plastic pallets
On the downside, plastic pallets cannot hold as much as wood pallets. They’re considerably more expensive, and if they break, you can’t repair them.

Something else to consider, depending on what kind of freight you’re transporting, plastic pallets can represent a serious fire hazard. Though it would seem wood pallets would be the bigger risk here, plastic burns at a considerably hotter temperature and releases toxic gas.

Which is best for you? Plastic or wood?
A lot of it comes down to where you’re shipping and what you’re shipping. Are your loads heavier than 1500 lbs.? Then you’ll probably want to stick with wood.

Are you shipping to or from moist/humid environments? Plastic might be a better option then.

If you’re shipping somewhere where you won’t get your pallets back (like internationally), wood is typically a better choice simply from a price standpoint.

Of course, if you need a second opinion on what pallets you should use and how you can get them to where they need to be, we’d love to throw in our two cents. At King, pallets are exactly the kind of thing we get excited about. Believe it.

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