Palet generosity may indicate a slowing economy

Business moves in planks.

Those plastic or wooden floors with side tips for forklift lifting are essential for storing cargo, moving bulky items and shipping items.

Following an increase in demand for pallets to accommodate the frenetic pace of shipping consumer goods during the pandemic, businesses are steadily „operating from inventory,” so pallet recyclers expect a comeback in 2024, says executive vice president Glen Meeks. Western Plate Association.

Instead, pallet inventories continue to climb.

„Boards are a bellwether of the economy,” Meeks said. „When the economy slows, the supply of plates may increase, causing plate prices to fall; a good economy means more demand for plates and prices to rise.”

Oxnard Pallet Co. Owner Beatrice Vasquez notes that plastic plates are a particularly painful surplus. These platforms last longer and are generally more expensive than wooden pallets, but recyclers have fewer options when customers don’t buy them.

„We can turn wood into mulch for a grinder, and there are times when we can sell plastic for recycling,” Vasquez said. „But the price of plastic has gone down, so we can’t. Take it in large quantities for a while.”

Vasquez is working with a large company in Oxnard to change shipping practices to begin reusing plastic pallets made by a large Thousand Oaks company that would normally have to be discarded. But pallet companies are increasingly scrambling to put together such deals.

Another option for plastic pallets is from Berk Mills, a recycling and brokerage company with many recyclable materials from generators and sorting centers in Ventura County. Daniel Marks, CEO of Berk Mill, formerly of Oxnard Pallet Co. Worked with and can improve upon previous offerings. Over the past few years, the cost of baling, loading and shipping has exceeded the value of this type of plastic. Recently, however, a buyer in Malaysia offered to pay for 25,000-pounds stacked tightly in shipping containers.

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Pallet recyclers pay up to $2 per pallet to collect standard wood pallets measuring 48 inches by 40 inches, but most have begun charging to collect less desirable or broken pallets. Alco Pallets in Oxnard has been paying for multiple sizes, but has discontinued collection services, accepting only abandoned pallets and nothing but plastic.

In 2020, the global pallet market is expected to be worth $78 billion and surpass $110 billion by 2027, according to Robert Khachatryan, CEO of Freight Right Global Logistics. He noted that tough economic times for the industry may put some pallet companies out of business, and while the economy improves, it may take years for pallet business expansion to catch up. Meanwhile, due to a lack of convenient options, some may throw away what cannot be easily recycled.

The solution Vasquez envisions is increasing market demand for used plates. If that demand doesn’t come from an improving economy, it must come from changes in business practices.

Because pallets are currently being sold at low prices, businesses will continue to buy new ones and consider using them instead. Fears of broken parts or rusted nails are often unfounded if you buy from a trusted recycler, Vasquez says. He said his company doesn’t just move pallets for reuse, but pulls damaged strings from old deck board and remanufactures pallets.

Even in times of surplus supply, contracting for separate collection of pallets is an important way to conserve natural resources and reduce landfill waste. When collection for reuse is not possible, recycling wooden pallets is an alternative. However, pallets placed in 3-cubic-yard dumpsters — the kind that are lifted into the front of a truck — will not be taken out of the trash at sorting centers.

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Instead, place them in designated containers for recycling. These can be bins or roll-off boxes identified for collecting construction debris or wood and yard trimmings.

Environmental Tip Written by David Goldstein, Environmental Resources Analyst for the Ventura County Public Works Agency. He can be reached at 658-4312 [email protected].

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