Ceramic Industry

SPECIAL SECTION/RESOURCE MANAGEMENT: A Green Pallet

October 1, 2007
Presswood pallets provide an environmentally friendly, regulatory-compliant alternative for domestic and export shipping applications.



The need for source reducing and recycling is becoming an increasingly urgent concern. Companies must produce and use environmentally safe and renewable products that are manufactured using minimal natural resources and energy. Pallets, once part of the problem, can now provide solutions.

Presswood Solution

A new presswood pallet, manufactured using damaged logs, wood waste or other wood byproducts, is both source reducing and recyclable with its use of natural resources. The pallets are produced from low-grade timber obtained through forest tree thinning, strip mining debris, farmland and urban clearing. The presswood pallets also use pre- and post-consumer wood waste, including spent wooden pallets and boards.

The wood is first processed into chips. A binding resin is then added, and the material is placed into a mold under high heat and pressure. The end product is a one-piece, molded, nestable pallet capable of performing and competing with traditional wooden, plastic and corrugated pallets. Strong enough to handle most typical weight loads, presswood pallets are available in four weight carrying capacities ranging from 1000-2500 lbs.

The pallets are 60% lighter than conventional hardwood pallets, and the nestable design offers a space savings ratio of 4:1. The pallets' one-piece design features rounded corners and requires no nails or staples, which reduces product and packaging damage, and helps minimize employee and customer injuries. In addition, the low moisture content (6-9%) does not attract moisture-sensing insects and eliminates the need for moisture barrier sheets.

Presswood pallets also have the potential for return and reuse for extended benefits. Once a pallet exceeds its useful lifespan, it can be ground up and used for other products, such as mulch or boiler fuel.

Regulatory Compliance

Presswood pallets can be used for both domestic and export shipping applications. Because of the high heat used in the manufacture of the pallets, they are bug and mold free. Considered "processed wood," the pallets are export approved per the International Standards for Phytosanitary Measures Guidelines for Regulating Wood Packaging Material in International Trade (ISPM 15), helping to eliminate expensive delays at foreign ports.

Wood packaging material (WPM) made of unprocessed raw wood is recognized as a pathway for the introduction and spread of pests. To limit the entry and spread of quarantine pests through international trade, the International Plant Protection Convention adopted ISPM 15, and trading partners are adopting ISPM 15 in their import regulations.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), in coordination with the WPM industry, has developed an export program to guarantee compliance with the import requirements of trading countries. The program insures certified treatment and marking of wood packaging material for international trade, while maintaining traceability of the packaging material. The integrity of the program is dependant on industry compliance.

Heat Treatment (HT) Program
The American Lumber Standard Committee (ALSC), in coordination with the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and the wood packaging industry, has developed an official program in order for the ALSC to implement a quality control program for the official labeling of heat-treated WPM with the ISPM 15 official mark to signify compliance with the ISPM 15 standard. The ALSC administers the heat treatment program, which requires WPM producers to enroll with an inspection agency accredited by the ALSC.

In order for WPM to be ISPM 15 compliant under the HT program, WPM may be produced by one of two methods. First, the WPM producer may purchase previously ALSC accredited agency HT grade marked lumber and cut components from the HT labeled lumber for use in construction of the WPM. The resultant WPM product is then eligible to be labeled with an ALSC Accredited Agency Quality Mark to show the WPM is compliant with ISPM 15.

Second, the WPM producer may construct WPM from lumber that is not heat treated, place the product in a heat chamber and heat treat the WPM product to achieve the minimum wood core temperature of 56§C for a minimum of 30 minutes. The product then must be labeled with one of the ALSC accredited Agency Quality Marks to show the heat treated WPM is compliant with ISPM 15.

In order to ensure compliance, a listing of inspection agency contacts can be obtained by visiting the ALSC website at www.alsc.org or calling (301) 972-1700.

Methyl Bromide (MB) Fumigation Program
The National Wood Pallet and Container Association (NWPCA), in coordination with APHIS and the wood packaging industry, has developed an official program in order for the NWPCA to implement a quality control program for the official labeling of WPM fumigated with methyl bromide in compliance with the ISPM15 standard.

The Methyl Bromide Fumigation Program is structured much the same as the HT program. The NWPCA administers the fumigation program, and inspection agencies enrolled with the NWPCA monitor the fumigation with methyl bromide and treatment marking of WPM in conformance with ISPM 15. The agency quality mark may only be applied on WPM treated by fumigators certified in the program

In order for exporters to ensure that WPM is treated and given the agency quality mark, exporters may contact a fumigator registered in the program, register with one of the accredited inspection agencies enrolled in the program, or purchase WPM bearing the agency quality mark confirming treatment with methyl bromide. A listing of inspection agencies, as well as fumigators registered in the program, can be accessed from the NWPCA website at www.nwpca.com, or contact the NWPCA at (703) 519-6104.

Additional Benefits

In addition to meeting ISPM 15 regulations without the requirement of additional heat treatment (HT) and HT stamping, presswood pallets are free of bark, which is an expensive requirement for conventional hardwood and softwood pallets that may be demanded in the near future by European Union nations.

Preferred for export and domestic applications by companies such as Epson, Kodak, General Electric, Siemens, Quad Graphics and Toro, the pallets cost less to purchase, inventory and handle. Presswood pallets are accepted anywhere in the world as an alternative to treated lumber, corrugated and plastic pallets.

For additional details regarding presswood pallets, contact the Molded Products Group of Litco International, Inc. at P.O. Box 150, One Litco Dr., Vienna, OH 44473-0150; (330) 539-5433; fax (330) 539-5388; e-mail info@litco.com; or visit www.litco.com.

Editor's note: ISPM 15 regulation details reprinted from www.aphis.usda.gov.