Wood pallets are perhaps among the most common choice for international and domestic shipments alike. Due to their popularity, most people don’t even take notice to the option of plastic pallet alternatives. There are more types of plastic pallets than most people recognize, all of which have their own unique benefits.
If your company does a lot of shipping – on wooden or plastic pallets – this article should serve you well in making a more educated pallet choice in the future.
Guide to Plastic Pallets: Designs, Colors, and Functionality
When it comes to plastic pallets, you may have your pick at two different types of designs: nestable pallets, or stackable pallets. Each has their own unique benefits for every circumstance. Furthermore, both types of pallets will come in a variety of sizes and designs.
Stackable pallets are considerably lighter than alternative options, but come at a bit of a higher price. They have both a solid base and top, enabling them to be effectively stacked – full or empty. This comes in especially helpful for containers that are being loaded via double-stacked methods. These are an especially good pallet for international shipments, since their durability and versatility allows them to be used in a variety of different ways.
The flip side to stackable pallets is that they are more expensive and take up more space than nestable pallets. Many companies would still deem them worthy of use due to their structural durability and stackability, but these are factors to keep in mind.
Nestable pallets carry the advantages of being space conscientious (as the legs fit into each other) and are generally cheaper than stackable pallets. Returning these pallets after use in a shipment is incredibly easy, since more pallets can be consolidated onto a truck for return than wooden or plastic stackable pallets. This nestability also aids in storage of pallets when not in use, making them a great alternative for companies who are moving shipments frequently along the same lines and are in constant need of more pallets.
There are a variety of other types of pallets, such as solid deck pallets and rackable pallets that each have their own unique benefits.
Plastic Pallet Sizes
Just as there are different types of plastic pallets, so are there a variety of sizes that each type may come in. There are three main size categories that pallets may fit into: 1) Euro pallets, 2) standard pallets, and 3) non-standard pallets. Here is a little bit about each:
As the name entails, the euro pallet is the standard size of pallets used in transportation in Europe. They are particular useful to U.S. based companies who are importing from overseas, as the dimensions of packages and goods are often created to accommodate the specific dimensions of the euro pallet. However, euro pallets themselves come in 4 different sizes:
EUR/EUR1: 800 x 1200mm
EUR2: 1200 x 1000mm
EUR3: 1000 x 1200mm
EUR6: 800 x 600mm
A standard pallet’s dimensions are 1200 x 1000mm. They can come in a variety of different types and colors per the customer’s request. Standard pallets can also be manufactured to accommodate a range of budgets, with cheaper more lightweight options, as well as heavier more durable options. The more durable variations are better for products that are stacked high in warehouses, as the pallets do not lose their structural integrity under the added weight.
Non-standard pallets are more of a “category” rather than a type. Dimensions may vary depending on specific customer needs, and there is a surplus of different sizes available. Talk with your freight forwarder or related 3pl to learn what options are offered. These are especially useful for companies that have shipments too small for a standard pallet. It also helps for warehouse storage when available space will not accommodate the size of a standard or Euro pallet.
Colored Plastic Pallets and Organization
Many people don’t realize the added benefit of selecting different colors for plastic pallets. Since plastic pallets are manufactured in a variety of colors, companies can order different types for sake of efficiency and organization. Assigning a particular meaning to goods which are loaded on yellow pallets could mean something different than the green, blue, or red pallets. Many companies who use plastic pallets enjoy organizing their shipments by pallet color, with the various colors either defining the shipment lane, product type, or the product weight.
Plastic Pallet Weight Capacity
The specific weight capacity of a plastic pallet will vary depending on the type of plastic material it is made out of. In addition, the type (rackable, stackable, nestable, etc.) will contribute a bit to the weight limitations of the plastic pallet.
Virgin Plastic Pallets
A virgin plastic pallet is a pallet that has been made from new plastic as opposed to recycled material. These are stronger than plastic made from recycled material, however, they are less environmentally conscientious which makes them a bit less popular in the shipping industry. But for heavy goods, they are an excellent choice.
High-Density Polyethylene and Polypropylene
Both High Density Polyehylene (HDPE) and Polypropylene (PP) are used in virgin plastic pallets, however, HDPE is generally a bit cheaper than PP and is slightly more durable. Though both pallet materials are fantastic options for maintaining structural integrity.
Buying Plastic Pallets
Buying plastic pallets – or any pallets for that matter – is not always the easiest process. It is important to do all necessary research ahead of time to learn what your options are for price and pallet type. Here are a few brief recommendations when it comes to purchasing plastic pallets:
Purchase In Bulk
Buying pallets in bulk is more cost-effective, as suppliers of the pallets will usually give discounts to bulk-buyers. If you don’t need all these pallets, it’s a good idea to call local businesses and ask if they would contribute to purchasing the load and splitting the pallets to leverage the cost advantage.
Avoid Price Obsessions
You get what you pay for. Plastic pallets are no different. Focus more on what you need, as purchasing cheaper pallets and letting them fall apart on you will be more expensive than forking out a little extra upfront for the added durability.
Find the Right Supplier
Each supplier will offer slightly different options and perhaps different prices. Even if prices match between suppliers, the above spoken bulk-purchasing discounts may be greater from one supplier than another. We would also recommend selecting a supplier that is easy to communicate with and work with, as you will want to establish a long-term relationship with a plastic pallet seller due to their scarcity.
Where to Go From Here
There are so many benefits to using plastic pallets. With such a wide variety of different types, colors, designs, durability, sizes, and prices, it’s important to do your research before making a purchase. We recommend first establishing the specific criteria (weight and size) that you expect from a pallet, and then discussing the ways in which you might use a pallet color-coding system for warehouse efficiency and organization. Then begin contacting plastic pallet suppliers to learn more about your options and which type(s) will suit you best.
If you are ever eager to learn more about plastic pallets, or have other shipping-related questions, feel free to reach out to Interlog USA and we would be happy to help!