The automotive and ground vehicle industry has identified pallet size and material standardization as a means to enhance the reuse and recycling of pallets and to reduce their contribution to landfill. The objective of this report will be to gather publicly-available information within the automotive and ground vehicle sector concerning the current situation of pallet usage through a survey instrument; composition of pallets commonly used in the automotive and ground vehicle sector, including terminology and definitions; and information resources concerning pallets.
Pallets are an integral component for moving products for the automotive and ground vehicle industry. According to the National Wooden Pallet and Container Association, there are more than 1.2 billion pallets in service in the United States each day. The market research firm, RnRMarketResearch.com, forecasts that the number of pallets in the US will grow 2.4 percent annually to 2.6 billion in 2017, with annual demand for new pallets increasing to 3.5 percent per year to 1.3 billion. Wood pallets are projected to remain the most commonly used product type through 2017, although competitive products will register some gains. Plastic pallets have increased in demand as they are very durable over years and fully recyclable. Metal pallet demand will rise at the fastest pace, according to RnRMarketResearch.com, of any product type through 2017. According to the California 2008 Statewide Waste Characterization Study, ~14% of all materials going to landfill are wood, mainly wood pallets and related materials. The US EPA reported in 2011 that nationwide, wood represented ~6% of the municipal solid waste generation, or ~16 million tons going to landfill. Reasons for not reusing or recycling pallets in the automotive/ground vehicle industry are numerous, including poor quality materials that hinder recycling; sizes are so varied that re-users can not find reuse applications; and the method of attachment of cardboard to pallets makes it difficult to separate and hinders productivity. EPA estimates that in 2011, 24% of wood packaging, mostly wood pallets, was recovered, although no information is available for which industry sectors are most responsible for such recovery.