For years, wooden pallets were the shipping industry’s staple. Now there’s a not-so-new kid on the block and they’re moving up fast. Some might think that plastic pallets are a new commodity, but they date back to just after World War II. How recycled plastic pallets are made varies depending on materials and design, and processes have changed since their inception some 70 years ago.
Understanding the type of plastics used in the pallet production, together with the design and manufacturing process, can help make sure you choose the best pallet for your specific application.
What Type of Plastics are Used
Plastic resins vary greatly not only in cost but also in strength and weight. There are four main types, and all come in pellet form to be melted down at the manufacturing facility.
High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE) is most common, very durable, strong, and handles impacts well. It is made from plastics with the recycling code 2 such as plastic bottles, corrosion-resistant piping, geomembranes, and plastic lumber.
Polypropylene (PP) is similar, but is harder, more rigid, and can handle higher temperatures. It also holds more weight and works well when an application requires no center support. When made with recycled products, it uses ones with code 5. Those would include furniture, luggage, toys, car bumpers, lining and external borders of cars.
When HDPE and PP are blended together to achieve a lower cost, they are made from recycled materials and result in a very rigid and durable plastic pallet.
Advanced Composite Material (ACM) is the least expensive of all the materials and is made of post-industrial plastic scrap, resulting in a very-strong-but-stiff pallet that can be brittle. This means it does not hold up to repeated use as long as other types of plastic. These are considered one-use or send-and-forget pallets.
Plastic Pallet Manufacturing
There are several different methods for manufacturing plastic pallets, using both virgin resin or recycled pellets.
Injection molding is used for high-performance pallets. This process is expensive, high speed, and has a high resistance to impacts.
Structural foam molding is also widely used. It costs less than injection molding, is made under lower pressure, and uses gas in the process, leaving the inside of the pallets porous instead of solid. This is very good for high weight capacity in racking. It also doesn’t stand up well to impacts.
Thermoforming is much less expensive than the other two and uses sheet plastic, heated nearly to a liquid form that is then pulled into a mold using a vacuum and fills the space as designed. These are a bit pliable and stand up to fork tine abuse well. They cannot handle heavy weight.
Other processes that are used include blow molding, rotational molding, extrusion, and compression molding. While not as common, these processes are usually used for low volumes and can be very efficient.
Which Pallet Should I Choose?
Choosing the plastic pallet that is best for your application can seem complicated with so many different designs, manufacturing processes, and materials to choose from. Instead of spending too much time trying to figure it out on your own, let us help you!
At Plastic Pallet Pros we will easily and quickly narrow choices down for you based on your needs. Then we will give you a highly competitive price quote for those you select. Give us a call today and we can get started.