Why buy plastic?

10 January 2014

Although traditional timber pallets continues to dominate the market, Jim Hardisty, managing director of, believes plastic pallets offer clear advantages for industrial handling operations. Here, he explains why he believes plastic deserves greater consideration.

The performance of wood versus plastic is a hugely debated topic and one that’s not likely to abate anytime soon. After all, the traditional timber pallet has existed for almost a century and has helped transform the logistics industry. However the automated systems of today’s modern logistics operations call for more durable, flexible products that offer safer handling and satisfy businesses’ economic and environmental demands.

Demand for plastic pallets has been growing steadily over the last 10 years and is slowly gaining on wood as more businesses are recognising that the higher initial outlay is a small price to pay, for a safer, tougher, longer lasting product that in fact generates a good return on investment.

Economic benefits 

In a closed loop scenario, plastic pallets are recognised as an asset, and as such their cost depreciates over their working life. Take a medium duty plastic pallet for example – with an average life span of 520 weeks – the cost to the operator can be as low as 0.05 GBP per week. When used within normal handling and loading limits a reusable plastic pallet, such as this, can last up to 10 times longer than wood.

For lower weight applications, further cost savings can be achieved by using nestable plastic pallets. Although the unit cost of a nestable plastic pallet can be double the cost of a one-way wooden pallet, since they can be reused, plastic pallets rapidly become profitable. In fact, it is not uncommon for a nestable plastic pallet to be used in a manufacturing environment for up to 50 stock rotations.

Lower fuel bills are also achievable with nestable plastic pallets. The ability to nest up to 40 empty pallets in a single stack means that a single trailer can hold 1320 nestable pallets, which requires fewer return journeys to the warehouse, saving companies hundreds and sometimes thousands of pounds at the pump, and at the same time reducing their carbon footprint.   

Safer handling

Owing to their lack of splinters, nails and sharp edges, plastic pallets are safer to handle than wooden pallets and there is no risk of loose component parts breaking free under manual lifting conditions and causing injury to operatives.

The same applies for automated handling systems. In manufacturing plastic pallets, highly polished moulds ensure the consistent size, strength and dimensional accuracy or each pallet, which means that they work seamlessly in any automated operation. Using wooden pallets in automation offers far greater risks as it only takes one loose nail or splintered edge to jam a system, causing untold damage, costly repairs, and loss of earnings through downtime.


Racking systems in industrial warehouses have become increasingly sophisticated. Ask a technical operative what the capacity of a racking system is, he’ll be able to define it based on the position of the pallet, the span of the beams and the drive-in bays; he’ll know that the beams are designed to support a specific number of kilograms on so many pallets per bay, and that the end supports have been bolted down using a particular bolt with a defined length and thread. 

Ask the same technical operative what the capacity of the wooden pallet being used on the racking system is, and he won’t be able to tell you as, whether new or reused, wooden pallets do not have guaranteed loading capacities, since the strength of timber varies. 

The only way technical operatives can be in full control of their racking systems and optimise safety is by using plastic pallets, which have stated loading capacities.

Product choice

Over recent years there have been enormous improvements in plastic pallet design with new styles, sizes and specifications introduced to the market. From highly durable full perimeter pallets that offer maximum strength for racking and pool applications, to lighter weight export pallets that are exempt from heat treatment regulations and offer a hassle-free option for export consignments.

Since 2001, we have been constantly researching new models and plastic technology and updating our range, so much so that we now stock in excess of 155 different plastic pallets – with many models available for next day delivery to UK destinations.