Study Shows 95% of Wooden Pallets are Recycled, Indicating Significant Gains in Landfill Avoidance

Preliminary results of a research project conducted by Virginia Tech on the disposal of wood pallets at landfill sites reveal that 95% of wooden pallets are being recycled.   

The landfill avoidance study was independently conducted at Virginia Tech over two years. Both municipal and solid waste (MSW) and construction and demolition (C&D) landfill facilities were surveyed to better understand how pallets were being handled at these facilities.

According to the study, the number of pallets entering the landfill reduced by 86%, for both MSW and C&D facilities. Environmental awareness, limited space and a desire to be more waste efficient have driven many of these facilities to sort and recover certain types of waste. The overall presence of wood pallets at landfill facilities also significantly decreased.

"Our industry is thrilled that the data proves the wood packaging sector, more than any other, is closing in on zero-waste," said Larry Howell of Cottondale Wood Products and NWPCA Chair. "Wood pallets are 100% recyclable, and the newest research from Virginia Tech shows that our industry has the highest recovery rate at 95%, compared to other prevalent materials." 

"Data of this kind had not been collected since 1998," said Dr. Brad Gething, NWPCA Director of Science and Technology Integration. "The wood packaging sector has long been touting their recyclable efforts for decades, and now the data proves it." Wooden pallets get used, reused, and when they are no longer useful, they are converted to mulch, animal bedding or biofuel.

"Of those wooden pallets that arrive at landfills, both MSW and C&D facilities recycle even further," added Dr. Laszlo Horvath, Assistant Professor at Virginia Tech. "The results show that landfill facilities have increased their wood and wood pallet recovery areas over the past two decades. For MSW facilities, this number increased from 33% to 62% of facilities, while for C&D facilities, the number increased from 27% to 45%."
 
"It’s great news for our environment, as well as the public. Landfill facilities provide recycled by-products, such as mulch, to their local communities," said Brent McClendon, CAE, NWPCA President & CEO. "In addition to being recycled, wooden pallets designed using the Pallet Design System™ are certified by the USDA as 100% biobased products as part of their BioPreferred program." 

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