Companies that do a lot of international business are very familiar with the benefits of heat-treated pallets. These specially treated pallets—intended to eliminate insect infestation— are required to comply with international export standards. Besides being mandatory for exports, heat-treated pallets are also less prone to wood rot and other issues because of their lower moisture content.
However, along with these benefits comes a higher price tag and the challenge of maintaining a fleet of certified heat-treated pallets. The additional time it takes to produce these pallets means they can be difficult to buy in sufficient quantity, and manufacturers can often name their price when demand exceeds supply. Companies that focus solely on domestic shipping avoid them as they can’t justify the expense. However, for those looking for a pallet that offers the benefits of heat-treatment, there is an alternative. Plastic pallets have all the advantages of heat-treated pallets—and more—and are exempt from the export requirements for wood pallets.
Three Benefits of Heat-Treated Pallets
There are many ways to complete heat treatment for wood pallets and other wood packing materials, but each method typically involves three basic stages. First, the wood is thoroughly debarked. Then, it is placed in an enclosed space and heated to a temperature of at least 132.8 degrees Fahrenheit for a minimum of 30 minutes. Once this is complete, the wood is marked with a special stamp that shows the treatment was completed in compliance with internationally required standards. Pallets treated with this method are superior to standard wood pallets for several reasons:
1. Export compliance
The International Phytosanitary Standard for Wood Packaging, otherwise known as ISPM-15, requires that wood packaging be heat-treated before export to foreign countries in order to reduce the risk of pest infestation. These standards were established to minimize the risk that an infested pallet might introduce an invasive species into an ecosystem which can’t support it.
Heat-treating causes wood to become more resistant to water and to mold and bacteria.
2. Reduced weight
The weight of an average wood pallet is anywhere from 30 to 80 pounds, with more durable pallets weighing more as they use more wood. Heat treatment takes the moisture out of new wood, which lightens the pallet. While heat treatment doesn’t cause a dramatic loss in weight, when many pallets are being transported at once, the weight savings can add up, resulting in lower fuel usage for loads that cube out and more product in each load for those that weigh out.
3. Lower risk of mold and bacterial growth
Wood is a porous material that absorbs moisture. This can make it a breeding ground for bacteria and mold, as the pallet holds onto the moisture that it encounters during use. Mold and bacterial growth on a pallet’s surface can also transfer to the products the pallet carries. Heat-treating causes wood to become more resistant to water and to mold and bacteria, which lowers the risk of product contamination and load rejection related to unsanitary conditions.
Plastic Pallets As an Alternative to Heat-Treated Platforms
Heat-treated pallets present higher costs and sourcing difficulties which may not be worth the trouble unless your company does extensive international shipping. Plastic pallets, however, are a viable alternative to heat-treated platforms that also offer additional benefits that make their cost easy to justify. Plastic pallets provide:
1. Exemption from ISPM-15
ISPM-15 does not apply to plastic pallets, as they have a very low risk of infestation. The nonporous surface of plastic doesn’t collect moisture, so plastic pallets are not an attractive breeding ground for pests and insects—especially those that eat and live in wood, such as termites. Since penalties for ISMP-15 violations are high and even the most careful companies can face penalties through a simple mistake or damage to the required ISMP stamp, the best way to avoid violations for failing to meet ISPM-15 wood pallet requirements is to circumvent them entirely by using plastic pallets.
Bacteria and moisture may collect on the surface of a plastic pallet, but it can easily be rinsed away.
2. Consistently low weight
The average multi-use plastic pallet weighs no more than 50 pounds, and none of this weight is wasted on moisture, as plastic doesn’t collect it. As such, companies can enjoy the benefits of low transportation costs and more inventory in each truckload without having to worry that their pallets will gain weight over time.
3. Bacteria and mold resistance and easy sanitation
Bacteria and moisture may collect on the surface of a plastic pallet, but it can easily be rinsed away. Since moisture isn’t absorbed by plastic, it’s possible to thoroughly clean and even sanitize a plastic pallet, something that is not possible with wood platforms. Since plastic pallets are more hygienic than wood, shippers can reduce the risk of contamination and rejected loads.
Plastic pallets are even more cost-effective when rented from a pallet pooling service.
4. Lower product damage
High-quality plastic pallets are far more durable than wood pallets, and less likely to break, warp, or splinter. This reduces the likelihood that sharp pieces of wood will damage product packaging or that product edges will be crushed when the pallet’s leading edge board breaks, both common causes of pallet damage during transport and handling.
All the benefits of heat-treated pallets—along with many additional benefits—can be found in plastic pallets. These export-ready pallets help to reduce your company’s total cost of business (TCOB) without the need for additional treatment or specialized stamps. Plastic pallets are even more cost-effective when rented from a pallet pooling service. Plastic pallet pooling eliminates the large upfront cost of purchasing a fleet, lowers costs associated with platform maintenance, and removes the hassle of sourcing heat-treated pallets in quantity. Plastic pallets make it easy for both global and domestic companies to streamline shipping and reduce transportation expenses.
iGPS pooled plastic pallets offer the benefits of heat-treated pallets—plus many additional benefits—while lowering a company’s Total Cost of Business. For more information, contact us at 1-800-884-0225, email a specialist at sw[email protected], or visit our contact page.
Image 2: Wikimedia Commons, self-made by the uploader – Own work, CC BY-SA 2.5 ca