Pallets are load-bearing loading aids. They are used in warehousing and transport to store or transport multiple, stackable items or individual, heavy goods. They come in a variety of designs (flat pallets, stanchion pallets, rolling pallets), materials (wood, plastic, metal) and dimensions. The most common pallet designs in Europe are the wooden Euro pallet (1200 mm x 800 mm) and the chemical pallet, also called the industrial pallet (1000 mm x 1200 mm). The so-called Düsseldorf pallet (600 mm x 800 mm) is also used in the trade sector.
The classic feature of the pallet is its notch, which provides a practical means of transport for floor conveyors such as pallet trucks. The clear DIN standard allows the respective vehicles to lift the pallets quickly and easily with their forks. It is important, however, that the order pickers and warehouse staff ensure that the pallet is adequately secured before loading. The pallet can be secured with straps or a foil cover to prevent the transported goods from falling.
Another type of pallet is the so-called pallet box. This has a frame on all sides and a lid that enables the pallets to be stacked. This also ensures safer transport of the goods and a more efficient use of space. Some pallet boxes also allow the frames to be folded in. This saves even more space during return transport.
In addition to the different pallet forms, the intended use can also be a categorising feature. Specifically, a distinction is made here between a one-way and a reusable pallet. The one-way pallet, as the name suggests, is not particularly durable and is only intended for transport from the retailer to the customer. As a rule, the latter handles disposal of the pallet. The classic materials from which one-way pallets are made include wood, plastic and corrugated cardboard.
Reusable pallets differ once again from one-way pallets. They are designed to be used more frequently and thus have a more stable and durable structure than their disposable counterpart. In terms of eco-balance, such a reusable system is significantly more eco-friendly. However, there are also differences between the energy consumption levels for the production of a wooden pallet and that of a plastic pallet. The production of a wooden pallet generally uses only a quarter of the energy required to produce a plastic pallet. In addition, recycling is much easier compared to plastic.There are essentially three common systems for reusing pallets:
In 2019, well over 100 million Euro pallets alone were produced. Assuming an average price of 10 euros, the turnover of the pallet market is in excess of one billion euros. It is estimated that there are about half a billion pallets in circulation. More than 50,000 people and 3,000 companies across Europe are involved in the production of wooden pallets.