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Wooden pallets

Protecting the climate while on the road

They are long-lasting, versatile and boast significant CO2 benefits in the context of the paradigm shift towards a sustainable economy. Wooden pallets. Looking at the life cycle of a reusable pallet from European forests explains why this environmentally friendly transport solution should be given preference over plastic pallets.

Do you know how sustainably your food, clothing and furniture is being produced? Probably not in detail. But certainly you have often contributed to strengthening a sustainable economy and society by making individual purchasing decisions. What even the most attentive consumers do not know: Most products arrive in the shops on packaging materials such as wooden pallets and crates.

This not only improves the ecological balance of the individual products. The transport industry, which is known for its high CO2 emissions, is also doing its part to achieve the EU climate targets by using reusable pallets made of the renewable raw material that is wood. The answer to the question why wooden pallets cause significantly fewer emissions than their plastic cousins during their dynamic lives begins with their “birthplace".

Most products arrive in the shops on packaging materials such as wooden pallets and crates.

Born in the woods

EUROBLOCK packaging timber is predominantly sourced from sustainably managed woods. These grow more trees than are harvested.[1] And for their growth they need solar energy and carbon dioxide (CO2). Both are permanently stored in wood and in products made from it - until the heat and the bound carbon are released back into the atmosphere during decay or combustion at the end of the life cycle. The process only emits as much CO2 as the tree previously extracted from the atmosphere during its growth – which makes wood carbon neutral. By using wood from sustainable forestry, you help to reduce CO2 emissions and counteract the greenhouse effect.

Thanks to the regional availability of wood in Germany and Central Europe, the transport routes of round timber from the forest to further processing are relatively short. As a leading manufacturer of pallet blocks and packaging timber, EUROBLOCK relies on raw material that grows in the vicinity of the German plants in Unterbernbach, Lauterbach and Uelzen. At the Dutch site in Ermelo, EUROBLOCK specifically uses recycled material and thus perfects the conservation of resources.

[1] The Austrian Forest Report 2015 published by the Federal Ministry for Agriculture and Forestry, the Environment and Water Resources speaks of a record timber stock with 1.135 billion cubic metres of stock in the forestry reserves.

In Germany, the third Federal Forest Inventory (2012) likewise returned positive numbers: With a stock of 336 cubic metres per hectare, Germany is at the top of the list of European countries, trailing only Switzerland and Austria. With a total stock of 3.7 billion cubic metres, there is more wood in the German forest than in any other country in the European Union. In 2021 and 2022, data on the current state of the German forest will again be surveyed for the fourth Federal Forest Inventory. All information at www.bundeswaldinventur.de

 

Components are created

EUROBLOCK's fully integrated production sites are a best practice example for production facilities that save CO2 emissions. The sawmill and the further refinement facilities are located in direct vicinity of each other, round timber is entirely processed on site and unnecessary transport between the sites is not required. The "characteristics" of the future wooden pallets are now being shaped under high-tech conditions. To ensure that they withstand the stresses of everyday logistics for as long as possible and live up to their label as climate protectors, reusable pallets are subject to strict quality requirements. EUROBLOCK leaves no detail to chance when it comes to the production of its pallet blocks and sawn timber, assuring constantly high quality with the help of close-meshed inspections and constant product development

Thus, EUROBLOCK turns sawmill by-products and recycled wood into more than one billion pallet blocks every year

Some 2.2 million solid cubic metres of round timber would be required to produce the same amount of blocks from solid wood – equal to 3 million trees. Thanks to the use of EUROBLOCK pallet blocks these trees can be used for higher quality products (e.g. timber construction and furniture) or remain in the forests, where they can continue transforming CO2 into vital oxygen by means of photosynthesis.

A pallet is born

Now, the life of our new pallet starts in earnest. Timber packaging manufacturers put the individual components together to create wooden pallets and crates of various sizes. Together with dedicated suppliers they once more manage to save resources and energy. EUROBLOCK, for instance, delivers its particle board blocks ready to use, to make sure its customers don't accrue any offcuts from squared timber and robot handling is made possible in production. This is not only economically efficient, but also beneficial in terms of energy consumption. EUROBLOCK packaging timber is supplied fresh or kiln-dried on request, as long goods or cut to size, in a variety of dimensions and special cuts.

Its large assortment allows the timber packaging industry to react quickly and flexibly to market needs and thus strengthens its positive image. 

Utilisation in goods transport

Our wooden pallet’s life as a globe-trotter begins. As a stable packaging material, it shoulders one delivery after another and proves to be a reliable transport solution across all sectors, including sensitive areas such as the pharmaceutical and food industries. Contrary to some prejudices, there is nothing to be said against the multiple use of wooden pallets from a hygienic point of view. (LINK to blog entry about hygiene). Slight contamination can be washed off with water in an environmentally friendly way.

blog entry about hygiene

Open-pool exchange systems such as the one used for standardised EPAL pallets save particularly large amounts of CO2. These systems, on the one hand, ensure that there are always enough pallets available and on the other makes additional trips to supply and pick up pallets redundant. They thus effectively relieve our planet's CO2 balance. And what if a block gets out of line? What if a board splinters? Depending on the degree of damage, specialised repair businesses are able to overhaul wooden pallets and send them back on their way.

A pallet becomes energy

There comes a time when the sturdiest wooden pallet has to give in and it is no longer worth repairing. This is where it plays its last trump card. Since it is made of untreated wood, it can easily be recycled as a material or as an energy source.

Within the framework of so-called cascade use (multiple use), discarded wooden pallets can be reprocessed into recycled pallet blocks or chipboard for other industries. Thus, they get a second lease on life as furniture or wooden buildings and the CO2 stored in the wood continues to be bound.

In case it is no longer viable to recycle the wood, it is turned into energy. As a fuel comparable to untreated wood sourced from the forest, wooden pallets release no pollutants to the atmosphere and burn in a carbon neutral way. Additionally, the renewable raw material replaces fossil fuels whose availability is limited.

Summary: A positive energy and CO2 balance

Extracting and processing wood requires less energy compared to the production of other materials. Looking at the entire life cycle, the energy balance of a wooden pallet is significantly more favourable than that of a comparable plastic pallet. Wooden pallets also perform better in terms of pollutant emissions. This is the conclusion of Bundesverband Holzpackmittel, Paletten, Exportverpackung e.V. (German Association for Wooden Packaging, Pallets and Export Packaging) based on scientific studies.[1] 

This natural material’s CO2 balance is particularly impressive. A single wooden pallet achieves a CO2 balance of -27.5 kilos. The negative value indicates a reduction in CO2 emissions, meaning that wooden pallets actually boast a positive environmental impact. 27.5 kg of CO2 are actually equal to the volume of a hot air balloon.

Extrapolated, the use of 1,000 pallets thus improves one’s own CO2 balance by 27.5 tonnes. Reason enough to send the climate protectors from the forest on the road with a clear conscience.

[1] You can find the most important facts and figures on the ecological balance and sources at   https://www.hpe.de/oekobilanz.html

The Austrian Forest Report 2015 published by the Federal Ministry for Agriculture and Forestry, the Environment and Water Resources speaks of a record timber stock with 1.135 billion cubic metres of stock in the forestry reserves.

In Germany, the third Federal Forest Inventory (2012) likewise returned positive numbers: With a stock of 336 cubic metres per hectare, Germany is at the top of the list of European countries, trailing only Switzerland and Austria. With a total stock of 3.7 billion cubic metres, there is more wood in the German forest than in any other country in the European Union. In 2021 and 2022, data on the current state of the German forest will again be surveyed for the fourth Federal Forest Inventory. All information at www.bundeswaldinventur.de

Source: Pallet Carbon Calculator by ECCM/Camco Group, Skogs Industrierna and timcon