Pallets = Weight. Weight = Fuel. Fuel = Carbon Emissions.
So what if we used lighter pallets?
It's simple, really. Weight requires fuel to move it and fuel produces carbon emissions. The more weight trucks carry, the more emissions they produce. And it's not only products that American trucks are carrying, it's the billions of wood pallets underneath them as well.
There are an estimated 10 billion palletized shipments every year in the United States.* Corrugated cardboard pallets weigh ~10 pounds per pallet, while wood pallets weigh ~50 pounds. On a national scale, replacing just half of America's wood pallets with corrugated pallets would result in 200 billion fewer pounds of pallet weight being shipped, every year. Assuming the average distance a loaded pallet travels is 500 miles, a reduction of 200 billion pallet pounds would result in 17.5 million fewer metric tons of carbon emissions in the United States, each year, while shipping the same amount of product. Reducing carbon emissions by 17.5 million metric tons per year is equivalent to driving 43 billion fewer miles in average gasoline cars or burning 19 billion fewer pounds of coal.**
* 2 billion pallets in circulation x 5 uses over lifetime = 10 billion shipments
More Products Fit on Fewer Trucks When Using Cardboard Pallets
Unlike wood pallets, cardboard pallets can be cost-effectively customized to accommodate specific product dimensions, which frees up valuable space and enables more products to fit on fewer trucks. IKEA has been using cardboard pallets since 2012 and has reported using 20-30% fewer trucks to ship the same amount of product. That's 50,000 to 100,000 fewer trucks on the road every year, from one company by simply changing the pallet. If we applied this model to just half of America's palletized shipments, we could eliminate up to 40 to 60 million truck trips per year while shipping the same amount of product.
Reusing Wood Pallets Requires Several Million Unnecessary Truck Movements Every Year
Consider this: Grocery stores do not send us home with our groceries in wood crates, even though they have a higher reuse potential than paper bags. This is because it would take several million trucks to drive around to every house in every neighborhood of every town and city throughout the country for the sole purpose of picking up used wood crates and driving them back to warehouses to be evaluated, fixed, cleaned, and then trucked back to grocery stores to be reused. Consider the amount of fuel and carbon emissions resulting from the retrieval of all of these wooden crates versus simply leaving your paper bag in the recycle bin to be picked up with the rest of your recyclables (with an already-existing truck segment).
Yet this is the system we use to collect millions of wood and plastic pallets around the country each year. Cardboard pallets would eliminate the millions of trucks solely dedicated to pallet retrieval, as well as all associated waste, costs, and emissions, because they can be placed in recycle bins at their last point of use and taken away with the rest of recyclables by an already-existing truck segment. Please see “How many millions of trucks does it take to reuse wood pallets?” on our FAQ to learn more.