Innovation: Aluminum Shipping Pallets

The worldwide transportation of goods within the global supply chain has a carbon footprint of around 2,800 mega- tonnes CO2e (see PDF).

Weight is a major factor in transportation fuel consumption and green house gas (GHG) emissions. Less weight means the potential for lower fuel consumption and lower GHG emissions.

A ubiquitous component of the global supply chain is the pallet. Annually, 500 million new pallets are manufactured. They become part of the roughly 2 billion pallets that are in circulation in the U.S. at any given time. 93% of all goods move on a pallet.

The typical pallet is made of wood. Wood pallets are facing increased scrutiny from supply chain analysis for the following environmental and health issues:

Weight. Wood pallets weigh approximately 70 to 80 pounds. Cutting the weight of a pallet is a quick path to reduce fuel consumption, save money and reduce emissions.

Environmental Impacts. The wood pallet industry has taken great effort to position wood pallets as environmentally benign based upon the use of less desirable parts of the tree in the manufacture of wood pallets and the growth of wood pallet recycling. However, wood pallets require the cutting of trees in their manufacture and this does reduce a source of CO2 mitigation. In addition, it is estimated that 3% of all wood pallets, or approximately 20 million wood pallets, end up in a landfill annually.

Human Health Concerns. There is growing awareness of the potential for wood pallets to convey bacteria harmful to humans including Listeria, E. coli and salmonella. Because they are subject to wood infestation they are often sprayed with a fumigation called Methyl Bromide – a highly toxic chemical.

Addressing these challenges is a new company offering an aluminum pallet that I discoverd at the recently held CleanTech Open in Silicon Valley.

The company is named Eco Aluminum Pallets. Their pallets are made from recycled aluminum. And after their useful life they can be recycled.

And because these pallets are lighter they create transportation fuel savings and reduced GHG emissions.

What really caught my attention is that they also can cost less! Typical of the trend for launching clean technology innovations, these pallets are sold through a lease offering monthly payments that are more affordable than wooden pallets.

This video interview with Rick Johnson, founder of Eco Aluminum Pallets, profiles yet another example of how cleantech is producing cost less, mean more solutions that are enabling businesses going green to make money and a difference:

Bill Roth is the founder of Earth 2017, a company that connects businesses with customers who are searching for smart, healthy and green solutions. His book, The Secret Green Sauce, profiles best practices of businesses making money going green. Through Earth 2017 he is implementing an 11-city program called Green Builds Business created by the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce with funding from Walmart.

First Green Business Coach for Founder of EARTH 2017, a website posting economic analysis on disruptive trends impacting communities and businesses. President of NCCT, a consulting company that coaches CEOs and business owners on pricing and marketing best practices proven to win the millennial generation, and their moms, as customers.

8 responses

  1. “3% of all wood pallets” winding up in a landfill doesn’t sound too bad to me, assuming they are manufactured ethically.

  2. I deal with wooden pallets on a daily basis. They are heavy, and often crack and are thus unable to hold as much weight (or become obsolete altogether). An aluminum pallet that costs less and is more eco-friendly is something that interests me greatly, and should be the new trend.

    1. Thank you for your insights Mukund, much appreciated! Another cool feature of the Eco Aluminum Pallet design is that it is repairable! Rather than tossing another broken wood pallet into the dump, this technology can extend useful life with repairs.

  3. Hello .

    This is a very innovative and ‘greener’ approach to packing things that need to be transported . I had a quick question – Can it be used for all kinds of goods ?

    1. Good question. My understanding is that its design offers similar or better strength compared to wooden pallets. And it is a HUGE step forward for international shipping that must be sprayed with chemicals prior to entry.

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