Beyond Disposal: Plastic Pallet Recycling

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Did you know that over 350 million plastic pallets are in circulation globally, each with the potential to outlast its wooden counterpart by nearly a decade? Yet, when these durable pallets reach the end of their life, they often face the gloomy fate of the landfill, where they can linger for centuries, contributing to the growing crisis of plastic waste. 

Recycling plastic pallets is not just a logistical necessity but a critical environmental strategy to reverse this trend. This guide explores the transformative benefits of plastic pallet recycling — how it not only conserves natural resources but also create economic opportunities, all while reducing our carbon footprint.

The Benefits Of Plastic Pallet Recycling

In the dynamic landscape of supply chains, plastic pallets are increasingly favored over traditional wood alternatives due to their durability and adaptability. These pallets are essential in handling goods that are unusually shaped—like bottles, kegs, or even heavy machinery — across vast distances, including intercontinental shipments. As these plastic carriers eventually wear out, recycling them becomes not just beneficial but necessary for a sustainable operation.

Why Recycle Plastic Pallets?

Recycling plastic pallets offers multiple environmental benefits:

  • Landfill Waste Reduction: Plastic pallets are robust but can take centuries to decompose in landfills. Recycling helps minimize this enduring waste footprint.
  • Conservation Of Resources: Pallets made from petroleum-based plastics contribute to resource depletion. Recycling them curbs this demand.
  • Emissions Reduction: The production and disposal of plastic involve emissions of greenhouse gases. By recycling, we can significantly cut these emissions.
  • Energy Savings: It consumes less energy to recycle plastic than to manufacture new products from scratch.
  • Create Green Jobs: Recycling facilities and reprocessors hire skilled workers to process scrap plastic pallets for recycling.
  • Feedstock For Manufacturers: Domestic manufacturers need plastic regrind for manufacturing new products with lower cost feedstock than virgin resin.

Lifecycle And Recyclability

While plastic pallets boast a long lifespan, they do eventually break. Luckily most pallets are made from either HDPE or PP and can be recycled.  To be consumed by a domestic end user – they first need to be processed into regrind material.  Once ground and cleaned, the material will be transformed into new products or pellets. This cycle utilizes a national network of brokers, recyclers, processors and manufacturers that collaboratively pave the way for these materials to re-enter the production cycle. Working as a team, these companies are preventing unnecessary waste and promoting resource efficiency.

FAQs About Plastic Pallet Recycling

Can All Plastic Pallets Be Recycled?

Most types without metal or fiberglass reinforcements are recyclable. However, specific pallets used by brands like iGPS, MillerCoors, and USPS contain materials that complicate the recycling process:

  • iGPS And MillerCoors Pallets: These have metal or fiberglass rods that can damage recycling machinery and are therefore not suitable for recycling.
  • USPS Postal Pallets: Although made from recyclable materials, these pallets are property of the US Postal Service and must be returned to USPS as destroying them is illegal.
  • MillerCoors Beer Pallets: Made to withstand heavier load – these are usually reinforced with metal or fiberglass and are not condusive to recycling.

What Are The Costs Involved?

The main cost is labor. Pallets should be sorted in like stacks and secured to the bottom pallet for shipment.  The cost of freight is often covered by the recycler if they are picking up a full trailer load of plastic pallets for recycling.

Are There Any Special Preparations Needed For Recycling?

No detailed cleaning is necessary. The key is to stack the pallets uniformly and nest like ones together, separating any non-recyclable pallets. Uniform stacks should be secured with at least one strap to ensure pallets do not shift in transit. Unloading a trailer with spilled pallets is a labor-intensive and time-consuming task.

What Happens After Recycling?

The plastic pallets are consolidated at a recycling facility equipped with shredders, granulators, and other equipment. They are sorted, size reduced, and cleaned before being sent down the supply chain for further processing. Clean, uniform regrind from plastic pallets can be pelletized or used to make new products such as new pallets.

Case Study: Scrap Management’s Impact On Plastic Pallet Recycling

Scrap Management has been at the forefront of the plastic pallet recycling industry, assisting companies across various sectors to sustainably dispose of their used plastic pallets. With a comprehensive national network that includes consolidation centers, recyclers, pelletizers, and end-users, Scrap Management plays a pivotal role in transforming broken and unusable plastic pallets into valuable new products, all manufactured within the United States.

In the past year alone, Scrap Management diverted over 2 million pounds of plastic pallets from landfills. This effort not only created hundreds of green jobs but also produced significant environmental benefits:

  • Carbon Emissions: The recycling of these pallets offset hundreds of thousands of tons of carbon emissions, equivalent to removing tens of thousands of cars from the road for one year.
  • Water Conservation: By choosing to recycle, an estimated 11.5 million gallons of water were conserved—enough to fill over 17 Olympic-sized swimming pools.
  • Energy Conservation: This recycling process conserved approximately 11.5 million kWh of electricity, which is enough energy to power nearly 1,000 American homes for an entire year.

Economic And Employment Impact:

  • Green Jobs: The process supported a range of employment opportunities, from logistics and transportation to recycling facility operations and product manufacturing. This includes direct jobs in handling and processing the materials, as well as indirect roles in supporting industries and services.
  • Economic Activity: The ripple effects of this recycling initiative extend beyond direct employment, enhancing local economies through both direct and indirect economic activities. These include revenue from the sale of recycled materials, spending by employees, and the broader economic benefits due to improved local economic conditions.


Recycling plastic pallets is not only a responsible environmental practice but also a practical necessity for businesses that utilize these items extensively. The process helps conserve resources, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and save energy. Embarking in this recycling journey supports environmental sustainability and promotes a circular economy. 

Ready to recycle your plastic pallets or need a quote for your materials? Click here to schedule a pick-up or to learn more about our services.

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