|Forum topic by Mainiac Matt||posted 06-20-2012 01:50 PM||3689 views||2 times favorited||36 replies|
06-20-2012 01:50 PM
My hat is off to you guys who put the time and energy into reclaiming pallet lumber.
Since there seems to be a lot of interest in pallets on the boards and I work for a company that has both a new pallet manufacturing and a pallet recycling operation, I thought I’d share a few tidbits that the crew may find interesting.
There is an entire market for recycled pallets. But because transportation is one of the major costs, this market moves in truck load quantities. Big logistics outfits (like CHEP or INEFCO) bid the national HD, Lowes, Ace and Walmart contracts to dispose of their pallets, and then sub out the regional servicing of the contract to companies like the one I work for. These regional players park an empty tractor trailer at the big box stores, where the pallets are collected, and when the store manager calls in that the trailer is full, we’re required to perform a “drop and hook” (deliver an empty trailer and back haul the full one) within a contractual time period (usually 24 to 48 hours). The load of pallets comes back to the processing facility and is segregated into three groups:
1. “Marketable” pallets are those built to the Grocery Store Manufactures Association (GMA) standard geometry of 48”x40” (this is 80-90% of the pallet world). These are referred to as cores and are stacked in queue for repair, which involves replacing broken deck an bottom boards, and repair of cracked stringers with either metal gusset plates or “companion stringers” (short blocks of wood sistered up along the inside and nailed in place).
2. Pallets that are not marketable, but can be used for repair lumber go down a conveyor line where they are disassembled. This is done with a specialized horizontal band saw with a bi-metal blade. The pallet rides on a guide so that the blade is wedged in between the deck boards and stringers and cuts only the nails. The deck boards are then cut to 40” and the stringers are cut down to make “companion stringers”
3. Softwood pallets, block pallets, and pallets too small to get useful lumber from go into the grind pile. We grind “pallet mountain” daily and during our busy season, fill 8 to 10 open top trailers a week. Nails are removed via. a magnetic head on the conveyor and sold for scrap metal. The grinder screen size is set up to produce chip sizes per customer requirements and the chips are sold to bio-mass plants to generate electricity (where they love the dry, high BTU hardwood pallet chips), or to wood pellet manufactures or on occasion to bark mulch outfits.
The CHEP contract will stipulate a fixed charge for transportation, an amount credited for each marketable core, and a disposal charge for non-marketable“ pallets.
Pallets painted all blue or all red, are actually lease pallets, and are accumulated untill there is a full truck load and then picked up by CHEP or INEFCO. If you ever wind up with a colored pallet… it’s acutally someone elses property.
True GMA pallets have 5/8” deck boards, and are made from EDH (eastern dense hardwood… maple, oak, hickory, etc…). They will have notched 5/4×3-5/8” stringers, and 6” lead deck boards (which facilitates three fasteners per joint). These pallets are load rated for 2,000 lbs. on pallet racks. Repaired GMA pallets are segregated by the type of repair and sold in truckload qty.
Hardwood pallets are assembled with green lumber with hard screw shank nails (to prevent splitting out the deck board ends). The lumber then dries rapidly while in service. Softwood pallets are a mixed bag… using both rough green and S4S KD, lumber. High volume pallet manufactures are set up so that a log gets stuffed into a mill at one end of the building and a pallet pops out of an automatic nailing machine at the other end, with the touch of human hands minimized. These lines are expensive and require down time to set up for different sizes, however, so they want to run trailer load quantities only… and prefere to spend most of their time banging out GMA pallets.
Believe it or not, there have been serious injuries and even a couple fatalities related to pallets falling apart when handled at the big retail warehouses (Sam’s, BJ’s, etc…), so those outfits are very restrictive as to the grade of pallet that their suppliers must use when shipping in product.
There’re are several other pallet standards and construction methods. With non-std. GMA pallets and block pallets making up the remaining 10-20% of the maket. Light duty pallets are often made from softwood or Aspen. And Southern yellow pine is frequently used in the south. The DOD also has several published pallet standards…. And of course the Europeans have their own union gig with “Euro-pals”.
Because the spread of Pinewood Nematode (think Dutch Elm disease) is of great concern in counties that don’t already have it. There is a whole protocol for heat treating lumber used in pallets and crates used for international shipment. Hence the HT stamp (which is different than KD) to certify that the little bugaboos are properly toasted.
Trust me, there is no such thing as an “unwanted” pallet. As mentioned, however, transportation and handling costs determine whether or not anybody can make money off of the pallets. So if you don’t have a truck load qty. of pallets, and both a loading dock and fork truck on site, you will have a difficult time attracting any ones interest to pay for your pallets. You may be able to get a “pallet gypsy” to take them for free, however. And these guys will bring pick-up truck loads into a processing facility and make a couple bucks (probably just enough for smokes and gas).
So there’s the world of pallets in brief…. and the next time you pass a pile behind your local retailer you can muse to yourself “there’s gold in dem dare pallets”
-- Pine is fine, but Oak's no joke!