Pallets are often considered marginal products in production processes, but in reality they are almost always present, especially in logistics processes. There are pallets of all shapes and materials, and the choice should be made with the intended use and the specific standards for that sector in mind.
Although multipurpose pallets exist, economic, hygienic, performance and logistical considerations can have a decisive influence on the choice of one pallet over another, and in many cases a wrong purchase could easily turn into an impossibility of use.
In specific cases, failure to observe these rules could lead to refusal by port authorities, transporters or hygiene inspectors of the goods, or in other cases to misuse with consequences for the safety of personnel and goods.
In fact, there are pallets with specific characteristics that meet particular requirements and standards for each area of use.
— PALLETS FOR TRANSPORT
Pallets for transport are usually economical, made in wood or plastic.
Depending on the type of transport, they can have different DIMENSIONS: 800x1200mm pallets (EUR Pallet) or 1000x1200mm pallets (Philips Pallet or European Pallet) are ideal for road transport, while pallets with other dimensions can be used for containers (see article on standard pallet dimensions).
For EXTRA-EU SHIPMENTS, there are very strict international regulations prohibiting the use of wooden pallets, or in other cases only if they have been properly treated to prevent the spread of insects or pests (see article on shipping goods, international regulations).
The last parameter is the permissible static and dynamic load, as an incorrect evaluation of the LOAD CAPACITY may lead to unacceptable risks and accidents.
The general trend is to use more and more recycled plastic pallets. These offer less weight, lower costs and are suitable for worldwide shipment.
Compared to wooden pallets with the same load capacity, the plastic pallet weighs half as much. In addition, the many versions without skids or crosspieces allow for excellent stackability, with warehouse storage reduced by more than 65% compared to conventional pallets, as well as being easy to store outdoors.
— FOOD PALLET HACCP
Food pallets are special pallets made of virgin plastic in polypropylene (PP) or high-density polyethylene (HDPE) certified to be in contact with food (Commission Directive 2002/17/EC of 21 February 2002 amending 90/128/EEC). These differ from food pallets, which only allow food to be transported if it is packaged and therefore there is contact between the pallet and the food.
Food pallets are normally white in colour and have no gaps so easy to identify and remove dirt as required by Legislative Decree 155/1997 Chapter IV paragraphs 1 and 4.
Food pallets are HACCP-compliant and cannot be made of recycled plastic to avoid chemical and/or biological contamination of the edible products transported or stored.
These are the main characteristics required of food pallets:
- constant resistance to both high and low temperatures
- suitable for use in cold stores where temperatures can reach -20°C
- chemical resistance to solvents, acids and alkalis
- resistance to fats and organic substances
- resistance to weathering and humidity
- ease of cleaning and/or sanitation
- no fumigation needed
- facilitation of import/export procedures (compliance with regulations ISPM-15 FAO)
In the food sector, plastic pallets cover a large part of the market, because they do not present the classic problems that arise with wooden pallets where sawdust, wood splinters, rust and mould can pollute or spoil the products they transport.
The fields of application can be different, such as:
- fruit and vegetable sector
- dairy industry
- meat processing and cured meat
- bakery and bakery products in general
- fish sector
— HYGIENIC PALLETS
Hygienic pallets have similar characteristics to food pallets, but here “different hygiene characteristics” are required. Although HACCP certification is a prerequisite, it is possible to use plastics that are not certified for food contact.
The application’s field can be in the following chemical-pharmaceutical, healthcare, clinical and outpatient sectors. The materials used must always be 100% virgin and of certified origin for hygienic (but not food) use.
— STORAGE PALLETS
Warehouse pallets have specific characteristics with size, shape, load capacity, weights and materials that meet international standards for use in shelf-mounted and/or automated warehouses. In addition, they can often have customised colours and logos.
In particular, warehouse pallets have rounded edges and corners to facilitate use with lifting and transport systems (forklifts and/or conveyor rollers). They have specific dimensions and very precise load capacities.