Avatan Handling Equipment Ltd

Are Plastic Pallets Better than Timber Pallets? A Comprehensive Guide

Are Plastic Pallets Better than Timber Pallets? A Comprehensive Guide - Image 1

In our exploration of storage solutions at Avatan, we frequently encounter the debate: Are plastic pallets better than timber pallets? Our extensive experience serving the industrial and food industry sectors positions us uniquely to compare these two types of pallets.

Plastic pallets excel in transporting fresh and frozen foods, pharmaceuticals, and other products with stringent hygienic requirements due to their ease of cleaning. On the other hand, wooden pallets, celebrated for their affordability. The pivot towards choosing between plastic and wooden pallets hinges on a matrix of factors.

In this article we aim to guide you through the nuances of each option, discussing the intricacies of tche specific product and industry needs, adhering to applicable standards and regulations, budget constraints, and the consideration of long-term economic benefits.


Durability and Lifespan

At Avatan, we understand the importance of durability and lifespan in choosing the right pallets for your industries needs.

Here’s our comparison between plastic and wood pallets on three crucial aspects within the durability and lifespan application:

Durability and Weather Resistance:

  • Plastic Pallets: Known for their robustness, plastic pallets can withstand rough handling and adverse weather conditions without distorting or weakening. They are also resistant to moisture, insects, and mould, making them easy to clean and sanitise.
  • Wood Pallets: While easier to repair, wooden pallets are more susceptible to damage from the elements, including moisture and pests, which can lead to rot and mould. Their porous nature also makes them difficult to clean and can harbour bacteria and other contaminants.


Lifespan and Cost-Effectiveness:

  • Plastic Pallets: Boasting a lifespan of 10-15 years and the ability to complete over 200 cycles, with some models like the Odyssey pallet from ORBIS reaching up to 400 cycles without failure, plastic pallets present a long-term investment. They are 100% recyclable, allowing for recovery of part of the investment at the end of their life cycle.
  • Wood Pallets: Typically lasting 2-3 years with around 11 cycles before failure, wood pallets are initially cheaper and can carry more weight. They can be repaired and reused, extending their lifespan, but their susceptibility to damage and contamination may lead to higher replacement and maintenance costs over time.


Safety and Handling:

  • Plastic Pallets: Designed with a cleaner finish, plastic pallets reduce the risk of injuries from splinters, nails, or sharp broken wood pieces. They are lighter, making them easier to handle and can result in savings on transportation costs.
  • Wood Pallets: Despite being heavier and potentially hazardous due to the risk of splinters and nails, wood pallets can hold more weight. Their repairability extends their usability but requires additional maintenance to ensure safety and performance.



In the debate of plastic pallets vs. wood, understanding the cost-effectiveness of each option is crucial. Here, we delve into the financial aspects to help you make an informed decision:

Initial Investment and Long-term Savings:

  • Wooden Pallets: They are approximately three times less expensive than plastic pallets initially, making them a popular choice for businesses looking for short-term cost savings. However, due to their susceptibility to damage, wooden pallets may require more frequent replacements and repairs, leading to higher costs over time.
  • Plastic Pallets: Despite a higher initial cost, plastic pallets can save businesses thousands of pounds compared to wooden pallets. This long-term saving is attributed to their durability, longer lifespan, and lower maintenance costs.


Maintenance and Operational Costs:

  • Wooden Pallets: Are easily repaired and reused. However, they are porous and difficult to clean, which can lead to higher maintenance and replacement costs, especially in industries requiring stringent hygiene standards.
  • Plastic Pallets: Cannot be easily repaired if damaged. However, they are non-porous, easy to clean, wash, or sterilise, and more reliable in automation, streamlining processes, and reducing labour costs.


Sustainability and Residual Value:

  • Wooden Pallets: Though initially cheaper and recyclable, at the end of their useful life, wooden pallets do not have any residual value for the owner, and sometimes their disposal incurs additional costs.
  • Plastic Pallets: 100% recyclable and have a high residual value, allowing owners to recover part of their investment at the end of the life cycle. This aspect not only makes plastic pallets a more sustainable choice but also contributes to their overall cost-effectiveness.


Environmental Impact

At Avatan, we understand the significance of environmental impact in the choice of pallets for our industrial and food industry clients. Our commitment to sustainability guides us in offering insights into how both plastic and wooden pallets fare in terms of environmental friendliness.

Plastic Pallets:

  • Made from up to 93% recycled materials, significantly reducing the need for new plastic production.
  • At the end of their lifecycle, they are 100% recyclable, with programs in place to ensure old or damaged pallets are collected for recycling into new products.
  • Despite their recyclability, production requires energy and resources, contributing to greenhouse gas emissions. If not properly recycled, they can end up in landfills, taking centuries to decompose.


Wood Pallets:

  • EPAL wooden pallets are kiln-dried and ISPM15 compliant, suitable for various scenarios, including post-Brexit trade.
  • Biodegradable and can be recycled into paper or cardboard, although their utility diminishes after several recycling processes.
  • The production of wood pallets contributes to deforestation and greenhouse gas emissions, but their simple manufacturing process and the fact they are often made from sustainably sourced wood mitigate some environmental concerns.


Hygiene and Safety

At Avatan, we prioritise the hygiene and safety of our storage solutions, understanding their critical importance in the industrial and food industry sectors. Let’s delve into a detailed comparison of plastic and wooden pallets concerning these aspects:


Plastic Pallets:

  • Non-porous surface: Facilitates easy cleaning and sterilisation, significantly reducing the risk of contamination.
  • Resistant to moisture, bacteria, and other contaminants: Ideal for industries with strict hygiene requirements such as food and pharmaceuticals.
  • Easy to clean with water and/or cleaning products: Ensures maintenance of proper hygiene standards without hassle.


Wooden Pallets:

  • Porous nature: Can harbour dust, mould, and present problems in high-moisture areas, potentially leading to health concerns.
  • Natural antibacterial properties: Despite their porous nature, wood pallets can be suitable for hygiene-sensitive areas, although they require more meticulous cleaning processes.
  • Susceptibility to mould and bacteria: Makes them less ideal for certain industries, especially where strict hygiene standards are paramount.


Safety and Handling:

Plastic Pallets:

  • Lightweight and available in different sizes: Facilitates easier handling, reducing the risk of work-related injuries.
  • Lack of nails or screws: Minimises the risk of injury during manual handling and reduces the chance of product damage.
  • Ergonomic design: Enhances safety during handling and operations within sensitive environments.


Wooden Pallets:

  • Risk of splinters, screws, and nails: Can lead to injuries during manual handling and pose a risk of damaging goods.
  • Heavier weight: Makes them more difficult to handle, potentially leading to increased risk of accidents or injuries.
  • Wear and tear: Provides conditions that may not only compromise the structural integrity but also hygiene, as damaged areas can harbour bacteria and pests.


Industry-Specific Considerations

At Avatan, we recognise that the choice between plastic and wooden pallets can significantly impact the operational efficiency and compliance of businesses in the industrial and food industry sectors. Given the diverse needs of these sectors, it’s crucial to consider industry-specific considerations that influence the selection of pallets. Here, we explore how each type of pallet caters to different industry requirements:

Standard and Custom Sizes:

  • Both plastic and wooden pallets are available in standard sizes (120cm X 100cm and 120cm X 80cm), aligning with global shipping and storage standards. This universality ensures compatibility across different logistical operations.
  • For businesses requiring unique dimensions for specialised applications, wooden pallets offer the flexibility of custom sizes and designs. This adaptability makes them a go-to choice for industries with non-standardised products or storage environments.


Compliance and Maintenance:

Plastic Pallets:

  • With materials such as HDPE or PP, they offer strength, durability, and resistance to moisture and contaminants, crucial for industries with stringent hygiene standards like food and pharmaceuticals.
  • Their ease of cleaning and lack of maintenance requirements, combined with consistent quality, make them better suited for export compliance and operations seeking to minimise operational downtimes.


Wooden Pallets:

  • Although requiring more maintenance due to potential issues like chips, displaced boards, and protruding nails, their customisability and higher weight capacity provide a versatile solution for various applications.
  • The need for treatment to meet export standards and susceptibility to damage and contamination may affect their suitability for certain industries.



The choice between plastic and wooden pallets ultimately comes down to assessing which option offers the most value in terms of durability, economic efficiency, environmental sustainability, and compliance with industry standards.

At Avatan, we understand the unique challenges and requirements of the industrial and food sectors, positioning ourselves as your partner in selecting the optimal storage solutions for your specific needs.


If you are looking for plastic pallet solutions for your business, check out our extensive range. Together, we can streamline your business processes, enhance operational efficiency, and foster sustainable practices for a brighter, greener future.


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