BlogChoosing between hardwood pallets vs. pine pallets can be tricky.

If you’re comparing hardwood pallets vs. pine platforms, you’ll most likely end up choosing between durability or affordability. While hardwood offers a level of longevity, softwoods like pine are cheap enough that lightweight stringer pallets are often used only once before being abandoned at the end of the supply chain. Yet in choosing between these two types of wood, supply chain managers often forget about a third alternative: plastic.

Plastic pallets offer many of the benefits that both hardwood and softwood pallets provide, while eliminating the problems inherent in wood in general. High-quality plastic pallets are more durable than wood and have a higher load capacity. Plastic pallets also support circular business models, as they can be ground down and used to make new pallets when they reach the end of their useful life. For all of these reasons, if you’re choosing between hardwood and pine pallets, you might be looking at the wrong options. In this post, we’ll dive into the strengths and weaknesses of hardwood pallets and pine pallets, and we’ll talk about why you might consider a third alternative instead.

Hardwood Pallets vs. Pine: Choosing Between Price and Quality

Pallets being made from hardwood and pine woods.When comparing hardwood and softwood, it’s important to understand the difference between the two on a basic level. Hardwoods come from deciduous trees that lose their leaves on an annual basis, while softwoods come from trees that stay evergreen. Shipping pallets are usually made either from hardwoods like hickory, mahogany, maple, oak, teak, and walnut, or from various types of pine, which are softwoods. There are lots of pros and cons to consider when deciding to ship your pallets on one of these woods.

Pros Cons
Hardwood
  • Durable: Hardwood has a higher density than other woods, making it last longer even under adverse conditions.
  • Strong: Because of the density of hardwood, it has a high dynamic load capacity, and less wood is needed to make a pallet.  
  • Expense: Hardwood pallets are more expensive than pine pallets, and supply may also be inconsistent.
  • Poor sustainability: Hardwood does not grow quickly. When a hardwood tree is cut down to make a pallet, it’s unlikely that pallet will last long enough for a new tree to grow in its place.
  • Heavy: Since hardwood is denser than softwoods, it’s also heavier, making these pallets harder for employees to handle and causing more wear and tear on warehouse machinery.
Pine
  • Low cost: Since pine is a plentiful wood and is easy to process, pine pallets tend to be relatively cheap and easy to come by.
  • Light: As pine is not as dense as hardwood, these pallets are much easier to handle.
  • Reduced deforestation: Softwood grows much faster than hardwood, so pallets made from softwood are arguably more sustainable.
  • Rejected loads: Pine frequently goes into making single-use stringer pallets, which are rejected by many retailers.
  • Limited durability: Due to its low density, pine may warp and splinter more easily, leaving behind shards of wood that can damage equipment and product.
  • Lower weight capacity: More wood is generally used to build a pine pallet in order to make up for its lower density. Even so, softwood pallets often still have a lower maximum load capacity than hardwood pallets.

Pallets made of both types of wood can warp and break and both can damage equipment when nails and screws come loose from a pallet.

Comparing hardwood pallets vs. pine reveals that, while they each have their own unique benefits, they have many of the same drawbacks. When it comes down to it, pallets made of both types of wood can warp and break–even hardwood–and both can damage equipment when nails and screws come loose from a pallet. And no matter which type of wood a block pallet is made of, it will always be heavy, weighing as much as 75 or 80 pounds. For these reasons, those looking for a lighter, cleaner, and more durable pallet might want to look to an alternative material that is rapidly growing in popularity: plastic.

Why Plastic Pallets Are Superior to Wood

Plastic pallets make a good alternative to hardwood or pine palletsThere is a reason that operations and supply chain managers are increasingly looking to plastic to provide a better experience. A high-quality plastic pallet can hold a heavier load than even the best wood block pallets. In some cases, plastic pallets can carry as much as 5000 pounds of dynamic weight and 2800 pounds edge-rackable. On top of that, they’re lighter than their hardwood counterparts, usually weighing no more than 50 pounds. Their lighter weight makes them easier for employees to move and stack, reduces wear and tear on automated equipment and machinery, and can help reduce the cost of transportation by ensuring that sellable products make up more of the weight of each truckload.

For most companies, high-quality plastic pallets will offer the best value through long-term cost savings as a result of their durability, longevity, lighter weight, and other benefits.

In addition, plastic pallets eliminate the issue wood pallets have of leaving behind splinters that can damage products and packaging and injure workers. Plastic pallets have a unibody construction, meaning they’re fused together and don’t require nails or screws. Since plastic doesn’t absorb moisture, it won’t rot, mold, or mildew, and is easy to clean and sanitize. Plastic also works to make supply chain management more efficient by reducing waste. At the end of its lifespan, a plastic pallet can be ground down and reformed into another pallet, making it a recyclable and sustainable choice.

The price point is often the deciding factor for companies comparing hardwood pallets vs. pine platforms, and in some cases, inexpensive pine stringer pallets may be the best option for certain loads. However, for most companies, high-quality plastic pallets will offer the best value through long-term cost savings as a result of their durability, longevity, lighter weight, and other benefits. Supply chain managers who wish to enhance those cost savings should consider the benefits of renting, rather than owning, their pallets. Plastic pallet pooling programs take on the responsibility of maintenance and replacement of pallets, which eliminates the need for a business to repair or store large numbers of pallets. Any company comparing hardwood pallets vs. pine platforms should consider the easier and more reliable alternative of pooled plastic pallets.

iGPS plastic pallet pooling offers a durable, easy to clean, high-quality alternative to wood. We handle the maintenance and the logistics of pallet management so you can focus on production. To learn more about how our pallets are superior to both hardwood and pine, contact us at 1-866-636-6443, email a specialist at [email protected], or visit our contact page.