There’s more to it than you would think.
We cut our teeth on recycling wood. Being a pallet manufacturer, this is only natural. But there is more to recycling wood than you might expect.
Wooden Pallet Recycling
With over 1/2 billion new wooden pallets being manufactured in the United States each year, wooden pallets are the single largest wood source recycled by Power Recycling. Industrial recycling plays an important role in extending the life cycle of wooden pallets. Of the pallets we receive, 80% are dismantled, refurbished, and put back into service.
It has been said that wooden pallets move the world. Most every product in your home, office, and school has spent time being transported on a pallet. Nationwide alone, there are more than two billion pallets in use. In the global marketplace, there are untold billions in circulation. With containerization for global transportation of goods, came global standardization for manufacturing of pallets. The wooden pallet is the largest type of standardized pallet manufactured.
Waste wood consists primarily of waste generated from used lumber. Wood left over from construction and demolition is the single largest source of waste wood. Needlessly, this waste takes up a considerable amount of landfill space.
Industrial recycling turns waste wood into feedstock for engineered woods, landscape mulch, soil conditioner, animal bedding, compost additive, sewage sludge bulking medium, and boiler fuel. Treated waste wood is separated from untreated waste wood to avoid contamination by hazardous chemicals used in treating the lumber. The waste wood is then run through an industrial grinder and a magnetic separation system to remove nails, staples, and other metallic objects.
How to Categorize
Your Pallets for Recycling
There are 12 categories of wooden pallets suitable for industrial recycling or reuse as designated by Recycler’s World.
- Scrap Wooden Pallets are of assorted sizes that contain damaged or broken pallets.
- Mixed Used Wooden Pallets consist of assorted sizes of used wooden pallets or skids in forklift-able stacks. These pallets do not contain broken boards, but they may contain a small amount of repairable pallets with an optional broken board. Mixed used wooden pallets may not contain block pallets or non-standard stringer heights.
- Used GMA Pallets are reusable 48”x40” four-way hardwood pallets. The GMA pallet is the standard pallet used by the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) and our largest source of reusable/recyclable pallets.
- Used Four-Way Pallets consists of sorted reusable wooden pallets with notched stringers that will allow a forklift to pick up the pallet from all four directions. The reusable pallets need to be sorted into uniform sizes and specifications. The sizes are indicated by stringer length, board length, board thickness, and constructed of hardwood or softwood. Pallets with broken/damaged boards or stringers are not included in this category, but fit into the category of Scrap Wooden Pallets.
- Used Two-Way Pallets are sorted reusable wooden pallets with an un-notched stringer. The pallets are sorted by size. Size is designated by stringer length, board width, board thickness, and constructed material (hardwood or soft wood). Additionally, the number of top boards and the number of bottom boards needs to be indicated. Pallets with broken or damaged boards or stringers are not included in this category, but fit into the category of Scrap Wood Pallets.
- Used Block Pallets are various sizes of standard automotive industry wooden pallets with wooden blocks in place of stringers.
- Used Paper Mill Pallets are wooden pallets or skids designed to carry rolls of paper. Top boards are aligned to create a stable platform. A paper mill pallet typically does not have any bottom boards.
- UPL Four-Way Stringers are constructed with Used Pallet Lumber (UPL) and are recovered from pallet dismantling. The stringers are sorted by size and have good notch stringers with the standard notch length and spacing. No loose or hanging nails or staples are permitted.
- UPL Two-Way Stringers are constructed with Used Pallet Lumber (UPL) and are recovered from pallet dismantling. The stringers are sorted by size and have good notch stringers with the standard notch length and spacing. No loose or hanging nails or staples are permitted.
- UPL Boards are constructed with Used Pallet Lumber (UPL) and are recovered from pallet dismantling. No loose or hanging nails or staples are permitted.
- Used Pallet Blocks are recovered blocks from standard automotive block pallets. These blocks are sorted by size. No loose or hanging nails or staples are permitted.
- Other Wooden Pallet Scrap is any wood pallet material not included above.
Used/Reusable Lumber and Wood
As the name implies, this wood is lumber or timber that has been used for construction purposes and is in good enough shape to be reused for other purposes through industrial recycling. Here are the commonly available sources and grades of used and reusable lumber:
- Linear Construction Grade Lumber
- Barn Board
- Remanufactured/Renovated Woods
- Used Plywood
Wood Chips, Shavings, and Sawdust
Wood chips, shavings, and sawdust are the usual by-products of timber and lumber milling operations. The wood by-product material is processed to a uniform size, contaminants are removed. After industrial recycling, the wood chips, shavings, and sawdust are commonly used for animal bedding and litter products, or as soil conditioners, soil amendments, and mulches.
Wood has been used for fuel for centuries. Wood is commonly the most readily available source of fuel for combustion. Wood waste can be recycled into firewood, charcoal, chips, sheets, pellets, and sawdust.
In some European countries, wood fuel is an important source of electricity production. In the United States, wood fuel is the second leading source of renewable energy, after hydroelectricity.
This is where the true creative types shine! We don’t profess to be the creative types, but we do have our share of ideas. We have seen headboards, dining tables, chairs, and even fully inhabitable houses built from repurposed wood!
If you are interested in some great repurposing ideas click here.