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School of Mechanical and Design Engineering

Introduction-School of Mechanical and Design Engineering

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The pallet is a flat structure usually made up of wooden, and it is used mainly to handle the transport or storage of goods. Pallets can be called the primary interface of units loaded. Pallets are used for product protection, absorbing its stress, and holding the product weight. Also, the pallets get used for safeguarding the products while its transport throughout the supply chain.

This report will focus upon LCA i.e., the life cycle assessment of Pallets to analyse the impacts of pallets on environment (Ko?í 2019). In the first section of the report, the aim, objectives, functional unit, and system boundary will be discussed. Section two will be about inventory analysis of Pallets including aspects like materials, manufacturing, usage, and disposable. In section three, impact categories will be discussed. Section four will be about interpretation. The fifth section will include the conclusion and recommendations.

1.2 Aim and Objectives

The aim is to analyze the life cycle assessment of Pallets for analysing the impacts on environment and sustainability.

The objectives include:

  • To identify the usage and importance of Pallets
  • To discuss the life cycle assessment of Pallets
  • To conduct an in-depth analysis of all the stages of the Pallet life cycle
  • To identify the impact of plastic and wooden pallets on environment

 1.2.1 Goals/Scope

The goal or the main target is analysing the environmental impacts of pallets by analysing its Life cycle assessment (LCA) (Bengtsson and Logie, 2015). The scope of Lifecycle assessment is wide because the environment and sustainability impact of both wooden and plastic pallets will be compared in terms of certain trips.

 1.3 Functional Unit

A Pallet is a base foundation of a unit load, and it enhances the handling and storage efficiency of goods, especially heavy ones. Pallets are made up of different parts including stringers, notches, deck boards, top lead boards, bottom lead boards, inner deck boards, blocks, and chamfered edges.

Figure 1: A Stringer Pallet

Source: Pallet Consultants 2019

Figure 2: Block Pallet

Source: Pallet Consultants 2019

  • First component i.e., stringers that is usually a board of 1.5 inches by 3.5 inches. It extends the full pallet length and is placed between blocks and deck boards
  • Second component i.e., Notch which refers to an opening section on Stringers’ lower part
  • The third component is Deck boards- a component for enhancing stability (Quesenberry et al, 2020). It is located at both on the bottom and top of the Pallet, vertical to the stringer
  • Top lead boards- the fourth component refers to pieces of lumber located at back and front both
  • Bottom lead board- the fifth component i.e., similar to the top lead boards
  • Sixth component i.e., Inner deck boards- the pieces of lumber which enhance the structural strength of a pallets
  • Blocks are the seventh component, used for building block style pallets
  • The eighth component i.e., Chamfer refers to the deck board edges

 1.4 System Boundary

The Pallet Life cycle (LCA) represents the whole life of a Pallet beginning from its pickup to its ending at return. Also, it includes the solution process of Pallets handling. For a wooden pallet, the life assumptions are 15 trips, and for plastic pallets, it is 100 trips. The system boundary of a pallet defines its whole system of Pallets in different stages of its life cycle.

 Section 2 (Phase 2)

All the data taken in the inventory analysis is sourced from published journal papers, surveys, and databases available online. In this report, only wooden pallets have been taken into account to limit the scope of analysis due to time constraint.

Quesenberry et al (2020) mentioned that the environmental impact of pallets of wooden occurred during the transport and disposal phase. It is important to note here that the service life of wooden pallets comprises cutting of hardwood, manufacturing of pallets, treatment, transport, and end-life treatment. The process results in various types of wastes, such as wood chips can be used to meet the energy requirement or as byproduct. The manufactured pallets are treated to eliminate any kind of fungus or pests in the plank during the shipping phase.

Furthermore, the woods are exposed to the heat treatment wherein the wood logs are heated up to 56oC for 30 minutes. This process requires petroleum products or woods to burn to generate energy. This would emit greenhouse gases that are invasive to ozone layer (Quesenberry et al., 2020). The treated pallets are then transported to clients from the distribution centre through trucks. At distribution centre, either pallets get loaded or unloaded. They are also transferred to smaller vehicles for local distributions.

 The lifecycle flow chart of wood pallet is given below:-

Figure 3: Wood Pallet Process Lifecycle Assessment

Product Breakdown Structure

 Lifecycle Inventory Data for a Single Wooden Pallet is given in the table given below:-

Raw Material



Energy Consumption

Land Use/Water Use



0.06 m3

34.65 MJ


0.26 Kg of CO2


9.32 Kg

0.21 MJ

9.32 Kg

3.667 Kg of CO2



11.09 MJ


0.66 Kg of CO2

Methyl Bromide


0.38 MJ


0.24 kg of CO2

Crude Oil


0.21 MJ


0.05 Kg of CO2



19.62 MJ


0.30 kg of CO2




Energy Consumption

Land Use/Water Use


 Softwood Lumber

0.00008 m3

12.44 MJ


0.96 Kg of CO2

Wooden Planks

0.44 p

0.014 MJ


0.34 kg of CO2


0.000189 L

4.65 MJ


0.205 Kg of CO2


2.35 p

0.38 MJ


0.370 kg of CO2




Energy Consumption

Land Use/Water Use




10.68 MJ


0.0054 Kg of CO2


0.03 KWH



2.3 kg of CO2



1.3 M|J


0.0005 Kg of CO2



0.02 MJ


0.32 kg of CO2




Energy Consumption

Land Use/Water Use


Crude Oil





Paper Packaging



 Boundary System

Figure 4: Boundary System of Wood & Plastic Pallet

Section 3 (Phase 3)

3.1 Impact Assessment

For classification, characteristics, and valuation of Pallets life cycle assessment is a mid-point modeling approach. The impact of Pallets on environmental management and sustainable development depends on the kind of materials used to make the pallet, its manufacturing process, and the handling process. Like, the plastic pallets last longer and are lighter in weight as compared to wooden pallets, but are major contributors to greenhouse gas emissions (Lizbetin, Stopka and Kurenkov, 2019).

 3.1.1 Impact categories relating to four stages of inventory analysis

The impact of the Life cycle assessment of Pallets including both Plastic and wooden pallets regarding the four-stage inventory analysis on environment and sustainability can be defined in different categories. These impact categories include ozone layer depletion, global warming, acidification, human toxicity, eutrophication, aquatic eco-toxicity, photochemical oxidation, and terrestrial eco-toxicity.

With the inventory analysis, it has been identified that plastic pallets, in comparison with wooden pallets are more carbon footprint intensive (Shafqat et al, 2020). In the case of just one trip, the carbon footprint caused by wooden pallets ranges from 11.2 to 16.1 kg carbon dioxide (CO2). On the other hand, plastic pallets cause 57kg CO2. The production phase of the life cycle of pallets has major impacts on the environment and sustainability. After production, the disposal phase impacts the environment the most. The disposal of wooden pallets causes a negative impact on the environment in terms of ozone layer depletion. To reduce this impact on the ozone layer, the wood waste of wooden pallets can be re-used for energy requirements. There are two more impact categories including land occupation and respiratory organics. In only these two categories, plastic pallets are preferred over wooden pallets because the wooden pallets cause VOC emission i.e., a volatile organic compound in the process of production (Khan et al, 2021). In other categories, plastic pallets are not preferable. Like, a wooden pallet causes just 20% of global warming of the amount of it caused by plastic pallets.

In the case of 1,00,000 trips, the production of wooden pallets is a cause for 14030.415 m2org.arable land occupation, and for respiratory organics, it is 428.951 kg C2 H4. The production of plastic pallets is a cause for aquatic pollution i.e., 5.14E + 07 kg TEG Water, terrestrial toxicity i.e., kg TEG soil, and for eutrophication and eco-toxicity, it is 1.42E + 00 kg PO4 P-lim. The transportation phase of plastic pallets in terms of 1,00,000 trips causes ozone depletion as 3.36E-02 kg CFC-11, global warming as 72,000.00 kg CO2, respiratory organics as 112.00 kg C2 H4, and non-renewable energy as 3.334 + 05MJ primary. All this negativity is caused by plastic pallets transportation because it has high usage of fossil fuels (Anil et al, 2020). It has been identified with the analysis that in the impact categories of non-renewable energy, respiratory organics, and land occupation, plastic pallets have less negative impacts than wooden pallets. It is because the energy requirements, organic emission, and wood wastage are higher in wooden pallets.

 Section 4 (Phase 4)

4.1 Interpretation/improvement

The LCA Process Success

According to the interpretation, to analyze the life cycle assessment (LCA) process of pallets, an Eco-Indicator 99 method has been used (Yerdianti and Aziz, 2021). It has also been identified that during the manufacturing and transport of wooden pallets, there has been a significant impact on the environment. It is mainly because of the high usage of fuels. In the case of plastic pallets LCA as well, the impacts of the transportation phase have been the most on the environment and sustainability. It has been identified that during the whole process, carbon footprints have been generated, especially while manufacturing. The success of the LCA process can be measured in terms of the sensitivity analysis and uncertainty analysis results generated after the process. The sensitivity analysis identified both the pallets' life cycle and their transportation distance capabilities.


There have been many limitations noticed during the analysis of pallets' life cycle assessment. One of which includes dealing the uncertainties with analysis like the uncertainty of model correctness and completeness, the uncertainty of data collection, etc. which has weakened the analysis process. Not having enough information and making assumptions on its basis have been other limitations.

Strengths and Weaknesses



· Pallets need not to be changed every time after usage. Instead, these are re-usable

· It makes transportation of goods easier, even the heavier ones (Garcia 2020).

· Pallets can be recycled which lessens the negative impacts of it on environment and sustainability

· It is very difficult to clean the pallets

· Splinters are difficult to handle. Shrinking and warping are common weaknesses

· Wet pallets have high chances of growing fungus and bacteria

 Areas for improvement

Based on the complete analysis, certain areas of improvement have been identified here. First, in the analysis of LCA, more recent information should be collected for better results. Secondly, the uncertainty dealing during the analysis process of life cycle assessment of pallets need to be improved. At last, data handling and usage during the whole LCA need improvement.

Section 5

5.1 Conclusions/Recommendations for future purpose


It can be concluded that both the wooden and plastic pallets have an impact on the environment

and sustainability. It has been identified that in some of the other aspects, both types of pallets

impact the environment in terms of ozone layer depletion, global warming, acidification, human toxicity, eutrophication, aquatic eco-toxicity, photochemical oxidation, and terrestrial eco-toxicity. The analysis of these impact categories has been done with the four-stage inventory analysis as well.

5.1.2 Recommendations

Here are some recommendations that can help in proper handling and management of pallets and can safeguard them from any damage. Firstly, avoid using pallets with sharp edges, the ones with distorted shapes to avoid the handling issue. To avoid fungus and bacteria, and any kind of infections due to it, keep cleaning the pallets consistently. Pallets are advised to be cleaning with soap water. The load on pallets, both plastic and wooden need to be standardised in order to enhance the average life cycle of pallets.


Anil, S.K., Ma, J., Kremer, G.E., Ray, C.D. and Shahidi, S.M., 2020. Life cycle assessment comparison of wooden and plastic pallets in the grocery industry. Journal of Industrial Ecology24(4), pp.871-886.

Bengtsson, J. and Logie, J., 2015. Life cycle assessment of one-way and pooled pallet alternatives. Procedia CIRP29, pp.414-419.

Garcia Porcar, A., 2020. Introducing reverse logistics in firms: a business plan based on the use of plastic pallets for transportation and storage of products.

Khan, M., Hussain, M., Deviatkin, I., Havukainen, J. and Horttanainen, M., 2021. Environmental impacts of wooden, plastic, and wood-polymer composite pallet: a life cycle assessment approach. The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment26(8), pp.1607-1622.

Ko?í, V., 2019. Comparisons of environmental impacts between wood and plastic transport pallets. Science of the total environment686, pp.514-528.

Lizbetin, J., Stopka, O. and Kurenkov, P.V., 2019. Declarations regarding the energy consumption and emissions of the greenhouse gases in the road freight transport sector. Archiwum Motoryzacji83(1).

Pallet Consultants, 2019. Standard Guide on Pallet Components | Pallet Consultants. (Online) Pallet Consultants. Available at: https://www.palletconsultants.com/blog/standard-guide-on-pallet-components [Accessed on: 16-Nov-21].

Quesenberry, C., Horvath, L., Bouldin, J. and White, M.S., 2020. The effect of pallet top deck stiffness on the compression strength of asymmetrically supported corrugated boxes. Packaging Technology and Science33(12), pp.547-558.

Shafqat, A., Tahir, A., Mahmood, A., Tabinda, A.B., Yasar, A. and Pugazhendhi, A., 2020. A review on environmental significance carbon foot prints of starch based bio-plastic: A substitute of conventional plastics. Biocatalysis and Agricultural Biotechnology27, p.101540.

Yerdianti, A. and Aziz, R., 2021, November. Environmental impact evaluation of crumb rubber industry production process by life cycle assessment (LCA) method (case study: PT FRP). In IOP Conference Series: Earth and Environmental Science(Vol. 896, No. 1, p. 012046). IOP Publishing.

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