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Repurpose those piles of pallets

They can be seen behind almost any warehouse in the world, those piles of wooden pallets. It’s hard to predict how many millions are in use in global commerce, but it’s safe to say that many discarded ones end up in landfills if some effort isn’t made to recycle or reuse them.

More so than in the past, businesses are realizing that the bulky wooden pallets that pile up in warehouses don’t need to be pitched with other waste. There are companies that will pick up loads of wood pallets for any of three possible purposes – putting broken pallets through wood chippers to create a mulch product; sorting out the ones that are still in good shape; or fixing damaged pallets for reuse.

“Undamaged pallets that can be restored are collected by pallet recyclers and sold to businesses that require pallets,” says Nate Rosenthal of the Rosenthal Group in St. Charles, Ill., which consults with clients to reduce waste and promote recycling efforts that benefit the company and the environment. “It is not uncommon for a pallet to be used 10 or more times.”

Rosenthal said the business of recycling wooden pallets is facing the same economic pressures as many other recycling efforts. “With the price of fuel playing havoc with the cost of operations, our recycling contractors are beginning to limit the size loads they will accept,” Rosenthal said. “More specifically, many pallet recyclers now require a minimum of 100 pallets before they will dispatch a truck to pick up your pallets.”

Recycling groups or community organizations offer this tip to companies that don’t have many wooden pallets stacking up on them: If you have only a few, just drop add them to the stacks of pallets at a nearby Home Depot and explain that you had a delivery and are just returning them.
In addition to being used for mulch products, Rosenthal said that damaged wooden pallets are often used as firewood in “waste-to-energy” operations.

“Pallets are graded according to condition,” Rosenthal added. “Obviously undamaged pallets are valuable and offer the highest rebates. Pallets with one or two broken boards are considered repairable and have some value. All others are usually scrapped and ground up for mulch.”

One of the other nice “green” features of wooden pallets is that they generally are made from wood that is left over from some other sort of production that is not suited for building or furniture construction. In that regard, they are made from potential waste wood and are already an environmentally friendly product.

Some businesses also list leftover pallets on Craigslist or a local Yahoo group to lure interest from crafters and woodworkers. It is all part of the process to recycle wooden pallets as much as possible, limiting the number of trees cut down to make them, and also keeping a large, bulky item out of our landfills.


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