Life Cycle Analysis of Wooden vs. Plastic Pallets

Maisey Michelz, “Life Cycle Analysis of Wooden vs. Plastic Pallets”
Mentor: Wilkistar Otieno, Industrial & Manufacturing Engineering

Wood pallets take up 96% of the pallet industry, while plastic is second with 37%. Both of these are the most popular materials that manufacturers use for their shipping purposes. Currently, there are more than 1.8 billion pallets in use in the US at a cost of $12 per pallet. This means over 12 billion dollars are spent on pallets, most of which is embedded in the product pricing, and hence is eventually paid for by the consumer. 400-450 million pallets are produced annually and only about 148 million of them will be recycled. The purpose of the research is to produce a life cycle assessment of wooden pallets, and plastic pallets and compare their environmental impact and their cost-benefit analyses. Our goal is to produce a model flow-chart with pallets as the case study, which can be repurposed to create the life cycle assessment for other products. The results of this proposal will enable product end of life decisions which may include reuse or recycling in the form of mulch, pellet fuel, or recycled plastics. To summarize, our results show that in this case study wooden pallets are more cost beneficial than plastics.

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