Wood, for example, is a renewable resource and wood pallets can be reused. In fact, an estimated 70% of the wood pallets currently in the market are used pallets, according to the National Wooden Pallet & Container Association. When a pallet reaches the end of its repairable life, the component parts can be salvaged and used to repair other pallets. After that, any scrap pallet lumber can be turned into biofuel or ground into mulch or animal bedding. Even the nails can be collected and sold as scrap. The key is to choose common pallet sizes, like the 48 × 40, that are used by a number of industries rather than unique sizes that have no market.
Likewise, packaging materials such as stretch and shrink wrap, steel strapping and corrugated can be collected and recycled. One limiting factor can be the fluctuating prices paid for recycled materials. If corrugated is selling for $20 a ton instead of $200 a ton, it doesn't pay to ship it very far to a recycling center. In that instance, the price could dictate using more stretch wrap and less corrugated.
By combining sustainability with unit load science, you not only create the optimal unit load, but you also reduce the amount of packaging material needed to transport your load, maximize the amount of material that can be recycled and minimize what goes into the landfill.