What happens to scrap pallets once they are deemed no longer fit for use? Some of them might be sacrificed to a high school bonfire or turned into artwork by a creative do-it-yourselfer. But in most cases pallets come back to the manufacturer at the end of their life to be recycled. The pallet recycling process takes old pallets and turns them into mulch, boiler fuel or pellet fuel. Some pallet companies do a primary grind and then send that to a mulching company, while others opt to vertically integrate and keep the whole process in-house. The mulching process helps to limit the amount of waste that comes from the pallet industry, by essentially turning old trees into new ones.
From Pallet to Mulch
A good grinder is essential to efficiently transforming pallets into mulch. Since the pallet comes back still nailed together, the wood and nails must be separated. Some grinders are not capable of separating the wood from the nails, so these parts of the pallet must be manually disassembled or thrown away, becoming waste. However, a good grinder will separate the two. During the grinding process, magnets collect the nails, resulting in two recyclable products and little waste. The mulch produced from the ground wood is used to enrich soil (mulch arrests weed growth, controls soil temperature, retains moisture and provides nutrients during decomposition), making the entire process come full-circle. In addition, the nails are combined with other steel byproducts and recycled. The entire process can be done with very minimal waste production.
Pallets and the Environment
The wood pallet industry has an unfortunate stigma of being bad for the environment. Unfortunate and undeserved. There are many socially and environmentally responsible pallet manufacturers that help to ensure new trees are planted as lumber is harvested. Companies that commit to providing a full-circle production process help to keep the industry alive by creating mulch that is used for planting purposes. At J.F. Rohrbaugh, we take environmental responsibility very seriously and are constantly on the look out for innovative ways to reduce our carbon footprint.