There are more than 5 billion pallets in the world, with demand rising annually by 5%. Most of these pallets are made of timber, which is no surprise. Wood offers relatively lightweight construction, high strength to weight ratio, high stiffness and most importantly, low cost. But surely, so does plastic. Wooden and plastic pallets have different properties, making them suitable for different jobs. Here are some important points you should consider when choosing between timber and plastic.

Wood Pallets

Wood pallets have been the go-to option in shipping for many years. Their primary advantage over other options tends to be their low cost. However, it is not that easy. The material itself can harbour bugs and fungus that can damage the products. Wooden construction is also susceptible to splintering and having loose nails, which is a dangerous hazard.


Why Choose Timber

  • Low cost
  • Can be recycled
  • Naturally better for the environment
  • Very simple to repair
  • Can bare higher loads
  • High friction surface keeps loads in place

Or Not…

  • Easily broken and splintered
  • Less durable in general
  • Can harbour biological infestations
  • Absorb moisture which warps the wood
  • Difficult to clean properly
  • Need to be heat treated before shipping

Plastic Pallets

Despite what many say, choosing pallets (and any product for that matter) ultimately comes down to the price. Plastic tends to be more expensive than wood, so there’s no surprise most opt for timber. Plastic pallets however do have extra features justifying the cost, such as improved durability and service life, and resistance to weather and bugs. The benefits can out-weigh the cost in certain industries, but each option still needs to be weighed up before making a decision.

Worth the Extra Spend

  • Higher durability and longer service life
  • No need for heat treatment
  • Lighter than wood, lower shipping costs
  • Safer to handle, no splinters
  • Weather resistant
  • Some can be recycled

But Consider This

  • Higher cost upfront
  • Can’t be repaired, only replaced
  • Lower weight baring
  • Less environmentally friendly
  • Lower friction surface can allow loads to slip

Your Choice

The points above provide food for thought, and should always be considered before investing in pallets. For some industries, the option to use plastic pallets may justify the initial cost. In open-loop industries where pallets are not returned, wood is a much more cost-effective solution. For closed-loop systems with pallets returning to the origin, there may be more potential for plastic to be of use. For very high loads, wood is the stronger of the two, but remember to always check the supplier’s specifications and never overload them.