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The Pallet Foundation funded a graduate student at Virginia Tech to acquire key market information and information on raw material usage for the wood pallet and container industry in 2016, and historical trends in the wood pallet market between 1991-2016.
The industry market study surveyed both manufacturers and recyclers of wood pallets, as well as brokers, asking several questions related to production, material usage, and other business practices related to the 2016 fiscal year.
The size of the overall industry shows that an estimated 849 million pallets (508 million new and 341 million recycled) were produced in 2016. In comparison to 2011 (the last year of recorded data), these estimations represent a 14% growth in overall production, with a 22% and 5% growth in new and recycled production, respectively. These numbers reflect the continued growth that has occurred through the years as the economy continues to pick up after the 2008 downturn.
Lumber usage between hardwood and softwood are estimated at 4.1 and 5.0 billion board feet of hardwood and softwood lumber used for pallet production in 2016, for a ratio of 45% hardwood and 55% softwood. The hardwood market continues to recover from the 2008 downturn, but softwood appear to remain the more popular material for pallet manufacture at this point.
Overall, the production estimates represent approximately 43% and 15% of total hardwood and softwood lumber produced in the U.S., respectively. The popularity of the most typical pallet footprints indicates a similar trend seen in prior studies. The 48×40 pallet (35% of pallets) is the most popular dimensional pallet, and by a wide margin, but the predominant pallet size is the “other” category, indicating that custom pallets (39% of pallets) are the most widely used pallets in the U.S. When compared to prior studies, the difference between these two categories is smaller, which suggests that the industry may be becoming more standardized that it has in the past.
The research has been peer reviewed and published in BioResources Journal.
The Pallet Foundation funds projects, such as the pallet market survey, to benefit the entire. This research was conducted in collaboration with three prominent groups: Virginia Tech, National Wooden Pallet & Container Association, and the U.S. Forest Service.
The respective staff leads who provided oversight and co-authored this article are: