The Environmental Case for Timber:
There is a very strong environmental case for timber
packaging which can be summarised as follows:
• Timber is the only renewable material for pallets. Species used are
plantation-grown softwoods not rainforest hardwoods. The grade used in pallets
is often unsuitable for other purposes and might otherwise be waste.
• Sawn timber production has a low environmental impact, consumes little energy
and provides employment in rural areas.
• Pallets nails are made from 100% recycled steel.
• Timber pallets are 100% recyclable with minimal environmental impact. Pallets
at the end of their life can be converted to wood chips that have many uses.
Those currently available include Wood-based panel products, Energy Recovery,
Animal Bedding and Horticultural Mulch.
• Timber pallets are repairable. Properly designed timber pallets and packaging
can be used and re-used many times. Their life can be extended because, unlike
many competitive products, they can be cheaply and effectively repaired with
minimal fuel consumption and harm to the environment. The carbon storage in the
timber means its life is maximised through repair and recycling and can be used
as a renewable energy source at the end of its useful life.
• Using a cascade model for forest products, pallets and packaging playing a
critical role as a market for small log production and falling boards from
larger logs. Pallets and packaging take an estimated 25% of all sawn timber
Timber is used for 90% of pallets. It has become
commonplace for companies producing pallets from alternative materials to make
environmental claims about their products that have little scientific basis. How
often do we see advertising making claims about a product being "environmentally
friendly" or "green"; or that it can be recycled, leading the consumer to
believe that the product concerned is automatically better for the environment
than a product which cannot be recycled. Technically, most products or materials
can be recycled but that is missing the point. Firstly, if there is no market
for the material, then there is little point in collecting it for that purpose,
when other forms of disposal are available. Secondly, the recycling processes
themselves have to be taken into consideration. Collection, separation, cleaning
and reprocessing all has an impact on the environment, particularly in terms of
consumption of energy and fossil fuels. In some cases, recycling can be
positively detrimental to the environment. Consequently alternative materials
are used principally for niche markets.