Sustainable Practices in Pallet Management: A Primer on Prime360

Protecting our environment is a matter of dire importance, as the impacts of climate change become more and more visible each year. With storms in the south and fires in the west, companies in all industries across the nation are taking steps to make their operations more environmentally ethical. The pallet industry is no exception to this, with fewer pallets ending their lives in landfills than ever. Yet, for most customers, the supply chain is only one of a myriad of processes that potentially need modifications to meet their sustainability goals.

We at Prime360 are experts in pallet management as well as sustainable practices therein. As members of the National Wooden Pallet and Containers Association (NWPCA) with vested interest in creating environmentally responsible solutions, our ultimate objective is to aid customers, and the pallet industry at large, in transitioning from the established take-make-waste linear economic model to a 360° model in which resources are regenerated, not consumed. Rather than endlessly continuing a cycle in which pallets are bought, used, and discarded, a circular economy sees pallets repaired and reintroduced into the supply chain to be used for as long as possible before eventually being recycled for additional purposes. By reducing the number of pallets purchased as well as those that are dumped in landfills, this model can significantly scale down, if not outrightly eliminate, needless waste resulting from supply chain requirements. Moreover, customers see substantial decreases in total cost of ownership, including purchasing, transport, and disposal cost.

Through our Total Pallet Management (TPM) program, we assist customers not only in shifting to this model, but in determining and meeting their individual sustainability goals as well, utilizing the EPA calculator to evaluate environmental impact and creating a unique “go green” program to implement improvements. Through compliance studies, customers are guided through the process of identifying high impact opportunities to standardize the quality of pallets entering the supply chain from their vendor network, simplifying environmental efforts by streamlining base operations.

Recycle, Repair, Repurpose

The term reverse logistics has been gaining ground as a means to describe the ideal and necessity of reusing as much of the raw materials required in the supply chain. In our case, reverse logistics means being able to repurpose and keep as many pallets in the pallet pool as possible is a worthy goal for moving towards a more sustainable future.

Sustainability is baked into the TPM model; as pallets move through the supply chain, they are sorted by quality into one of three grades. Grade A and B pallets, those that are structurally sound, are returned to the customer for reuse without the need for human or mechanical touches. Across the board, Prime is responsible for the sorting and redistribution of 15 million Grade A and B pallets a year, each of which may have been discarded and replaced with new pallets otherwise. Grade C pallets, or Pallet Cores, are taken for repairs and later returned to the customer to be pushed back into the supply chain. These pallets may be reused up to seven times, reducing the number of pallets that must be purchased to replace those that may have otherwise been castoff after only a few uses, saving the customer money and transportation time, as well as minimizing needless waste.

Repair and reuse also pare down the number of new pallets that must be manufactured each year to meet energy needs, saving water and energy on a broad scale. One national retailer partnered with Prime has seen roughly 4.2 million pallets repaired and reused as part of this program, translating to an equal number of pallets that need not be newly purchased.

Non-repairable pallets, those that have reached the end of their use cycle, having been repaired several times and being in generally poor condition, are collected for recycling and repurposing. This scrap has many potential value-added applications, such as being torn down to reclaim components for the repair of other pallets, or ground into wood chips or sawdust for applications like farm animal bedding and chipboard.

It is also commonly converted for use in waste-to-energy projects as biomass, organic material that is used as fuel in a number of sectors, including the wood products. Notably, it is also used within the manufacturing industry, among others, to generate raw electricity. Biofuel constitutes a renewable source of electricity that not only minimizes landfilled wood, but also reduces fossil fuel usage and air pollution overall. Annually, over 55 million wood pallets are repaired, repurposed, or recycled through Prime’s sustainability services, translating to a staggering 2.75 million spared trees per wood waste/carbon calculations. Recycled pallets account for 25 million of these, representing what would otherwise be a massive load of wood destined for the landfill. And customers may take advantage of these outcomes even without opting for full TPM service; we offer recycled pallets as well as a Pallet Optimization Program (POP), also known as a Vendor Compliance program, in which pallet, plastic, and cardboard recycling is managed for distribution centers and store locations.

Fighting Freight Emissions

However, the environmental impacts of pallet usage do not end with the pallets themselves. Freight emissions are a significant contributor to U.S. air pollution, with the EPA estimating that transportation accounts for as much as 28% of greenhouse gas emissions as of 2018. By prioritizing the repair and reuse of pallets within the supply chain, Prime eliminates as much as possible the need for new pallets to be freighted in. Meanwhile, we manage an ever-growing network of transportation partners who operate within close proximity of customer sites such as distribution centers and store locations, reducing distance required for transport. Further, pallets managed and freighted through Prime are cubed out to fully take advantage of each trailer’s capacity, reducing trips as well as the number of trucks required to meet an order. With steps such as these,

Prime is able to minimize greenhouse gas emissions within the supply chain while, importantly, saving customers time and money by optimizing freight operations overall. According to wood waste/carbon calculations, we have reduced annual greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 1.55 metric tons.

Each day, we at Prime continue to expand our efforts to protect the environment and cultivate relationships with sustainable outlets nationally with the goal of solving the problems facing our customers, including the cost and environmental impact of scrap waste. Additionally, we make constant efforts to innovate new technologies and solutions that support environmentally ethical practices, such as our upcoming TPM web portal, which allows customers to track pallets in and out of the supply chain as well as follow sustainability activities and outcomes.

Prime360 is the largest and most experienced TPM provider in the United States, with unlimited resources to support customer operations and the strongest partner network in the industry. As supply chain experts with a broad understanding of the ins and outs of pallet operation, we have the experience and skill to assist customers with an unlimited number of potential challenges. Beyond pallet distribution, we create and provide solutions to real business and supply chain problems that cost our customers time and money, proven by real successes with top US retailers. All this is done with a widespread focus on protecting our environment by keeping pallets out of landfills and finding purpose for them after their lives in the supply chain are over. By shepherding our customers towards the establishment of the 360° model, we not only steer them towards more ethical practices, but more profitable ones as well.

We value the opportunity to make lasting and positive change in our world, and we value assisting our customers in achieving their goals, whether they be financial, operational, or safety-concerned— help us succeed in both!

Contact us today for a consultation from one of our industry experts to learn more about how a unique “go green” program can help you save time and money while improving our environment!

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