Wooden Pallet Management and Environmental Sustainability
With an estimated 2 billion wooden pallets in use in the U.S. every day, identifying and mitigating potential environmental impacts is an important sustainability initiative for affected industries. With industry-specific expectations and requirements in place and continuing to evolve, manufacturing guidance and support is essential for International Organization for Standardization (ISO) standard compliance.
SOIL Inc. pallet manufacturing products/services infuse industry standard guidance for ISO standard compliance & environmental sustainability...
In 2019 Underwriters Laboratories Inc. (UL) and representatives from the National Wooden Pallet & Container Association and US Forest Service developed limited, non-exclusive, non-transferable license-based Product Category Rules (PCR) for the purpose of providing guidance for developing Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) for wooden pallets and identifying the underlying requirements of a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA). Intended users of this PCR are wooden pallet manufacturers and other entities impacting environmental aspects of the pallet life cycle. These rules are aligned to ISO standards designed to support global trade, drive inclusive and equitable economic growth, advance innovation and promote health and safety to achieve a sustainable future.
In November 2020 the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) conducted a Cradle-to-Grave Life-Cycle Assessment (LCA) of Wooden Pallet Production in the United States for the purpose of quantifying the environmental impacts of the wooden pallet manufacturing and recycling industry in the United States. The USDA concluded reduced environmental impact is achievable through process and performance improvements in both processing and transportation of wood raw materials.
Raw material supply and manufacturing of wood have the most significant detrimental effects on the environment across six categories:
· Global Warming (GW) (kg CO2-eq)
o Carbon dioxide equivalent (aka CO2e) means the number of metric tons of CO2 emissions with the same global warming potential as one metric ton of another greenhouse gas, aligned with the US Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), 40 CFR Part 98, Global Warming Potentials - Mandatory Greenhouse Gas Reporting.
· Acidification (kg SO2-eq)
o Acidification potential refers to the compounds that are precursors to acid rain. These include sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx), nitrogen monoxide (NO), nitrogen dioxide (N2O), and other various substances. Acidification potential is usually characterized by SO2-equivalence.
· Eutrophication (EP) (kg N-eq)
o EP is the enrichment of nutrients in soil or water due to nitrogen and phosphorus from polluting emissions, wastewater, fertilizers, and landfilling, leading to excessive development of algae and plants.
· Ozone Depletion (kg chlorofluorocarbons-11-eq)
o Ozone depletion potential (ODP) is the relative amount of degradation to the ozone layer caused by a chemical compound as compared to trichlorofluoromethane (R-11 or CFC-11) at an equal mass (or ODP of 1.0).
· Photochemical Smog (kg NOx-eq)
o For a given mixture and amount of greenhouse gas, the amount of CO2 that would have the same global warming potential (GWP), when measured over a specified timescale (generally, 100 years)
· Fossil Fuel Depletion (MJ surplus)
o Extraction of nonrenewable primary resources (fossil) at a rate higher than the replacement rate
The wooden pallet manufacturing process comprises raw wood processing, which is a natural resource, electrical power utilization, consumption of nails, staples, paint lubricants, fuel, and water. The manufacturing stage workflow includes preparation, treatment, assembly, construction, and/or remanufacturing and accounts for about 35% contribution to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Raw material supply accounts for 34% contribution to GHG emissions.
The highest GHG emission activities are sawing and kiln-drying processes for production of new lumber. Kiln-drying is a major contributor to the GW impact of lumber manufacturing. Continued improvements with drying technologies will potentially improve environmental performance. The disposal (end-of-life) stage, which includes wooden pallet disposed to landfills, has minor contribution to overall environmental impacts. Therefore, it is the responsibility of the pallet manufacturing and raw material transportation industries to place environmental sustainability at high priority. This must be implemented and demonstrated through efficient, effective, environmentally friendly business practices.
Lastly, it is important pallet end-users share responsibilities in environmental sustainability. An effective methodology for minimizing unnecessary waste and maximizing utilization is through implementation of materials management programs that consider management of wooden pallets and other shipping materials. Working internally to incorporate pallet management standards, storing, tracking, and properly disposing of pallets can be time consuming, resource intensive, and expensive. Many businesses, large and small, are turning to licensed, insured, professional companies, like SOIL Inc., specializing in pallet products, services, and programs to solve challenges inherent to commercial environments dependent on material receipt and distribution. Proper wooden pallet management impacts not only the business bottom line, but our precious environment. SOIL Inc. pallet manufacturing products/services infuse industry standard guidance for ISO standard compliance & environmental sustainability.