Information guide about plastic pallet boxes

Plastic pallet boxes are multifunctional and very convenient to easily store, transport and ship different types of merchandise. Available in several models, their basic design is the same: four walls mounted on a pallet. All models can be used to handle bulk items while saving packing and unpacking time, hence maximizing operations.

These multipurpose bins can be used in all areas of activity because they are an equipment of choice to avoid the physical handling of products, to contain or store a big quantity of product and to protect the merchandise from damage related to handling or transport. They are evenly suitable for containing loose parts of all sizes, bulk products, bags or boxes of goods, textiles or food products. Some models have been developed to meet more specifically a particular function, or to better serve one type of industry. However, even if these pallet boxes and combo bins have been designed for specific applications, they can still be used for other purposes. The plastic boxes are also especially practical to contain items that are difficult to palletize. With strong walls around the pallet, they are insured to protect the contents during handling and shipping. They are strong, impact resistant and durable in time. That’s why they are very popular in the market.

Benefits of banks-plastic pallets

The plastic pallet boxes have several advantages over those made of wood or metal, they are inert to moisture and water, so their weight remains invariable at all times, even if they are stored outside in the rain or snow. They do not gorge themselves with water and do not absorb anything. Another advantage of plastic is that it is cheaper and lighter than stainless steel, it does not rust and corrode. The bins keep their integrity and therefore remain identical at all times. Plastic pallet boxes are 100% recyclable at the end of their useful life cycle.

Stable weight – a considerable advantage during transport

First of all, it is a big advantage when exporting internationally, because the shipping containers that are weighed on shipment and on arrival must, in order to comply to the export regulations, respect the acceptable tolerance weight margin which is a difference of 5%, not exceeding 500 kg, between the weight declared in a transport document and the arrival weight of the declared container. Therefore, to reduce transportation costs in general or to avoid any extra charge, it is not desirable to pay for wet or waterlogged cases, because in transport, it is the volumetric weight or the actual weight that is calculated, but it is the heaviest of both that will be the “billable weight”. So, it’s better to pay for the goods and not for the humidity.

Another advantage due to their stable weight is that their load capacity also remains the same, so no questions to ask. They always remain safe even when the weight in the pallet box is very close to the maximum load capacity of the pallet box. Since plastic is a material that is inert to moisture, its properties will always remain the same.

On the other hand, if the wooden pallet boxes are full of water, they will be damaged, deteriorated and go moldy with time. Fungi or bacteria may even overrun them and weaken them, which will no longer ensure that their strength will be the same as originally, since the properties of wood will change. This is not the case with plastic ones, all of that have no effect on plastic. So, whether used inside or outside, exposed to any weather conditions, dry, wet or frozen areas, their weight remains stable and does not affect their load capacity.

Temperature resistance

In fact, regardless of the model, all plastic pallet boxes have a high resistance to sudden changes in temperature, such as weather and climatic changes. They can therefore be used outdoors and even be stored all year round. When used indoors, they can be used just as much to hold a hot or frozen product, or switch from one to the other without problems. The food approved pallet boxes could, for example, may contain a hot sauce and then be moved to the freezer for cooling or freezing. In fact, they can withstand temperatures ranging from -40 °C to 49 °C.

Resistance and maintenance

Because the walls are smooth and non-porous, this type of equipment is easy to maintain, resistant against mold, fungi, insects, bacteria and dirt. The pallet boxes can easily be cleaned manually, steam or pressure washed or be inserted into an industrial dishwasher. They also have great resistance to soaps or harder cleaners, chemicals, acids, solvents, etc. Tis way, meat bins or fish bins for example, can be completely disinfected for safe food use. Moreover, they are very popular in food processing plans, where hygiene and sanitation rules are very strict, as they can be cleaned and disinfected between each production lot.

Several plastic combo boxes have an original drain that helps to drain the box, otherwise it is possible to install an optional one. An adapter can also be installed to accommodate a valve rather than a plug. The plastic pallet boxes are molded in one piece and, unlike the wooden or steel ones, they do not have any nails, splinters or sharp edges that can injure an employee during maintenance or general handling.

Ergonomics and security

The pallet boxes can be handled on a jigger or a fork lift. They can also be dumped with rotating forks or with a tilting conveyor, which greatly save time and facilitate the work of employees when the content is heavy, dense or the body walls are too high to lean over to reach the content in the bottom of it. In fact, there is always a maximum wall height limits to respect to work safely, mostly when the manual filling and emptying operations are done manually by workers.

Indeed, we must think about the ergonomics of the movement when the employee must lean over the walls to empty the bin manually, using a hand scoop or a shovel, otherwise it will be necessary to use stairs of two or three steps, which is not favored by the CSST because the risk of accidents is present, then it is better to use handling equipment to do it.

The interior walls are smooth protecting the goods during transportation or storage. The exterior is also smooth, without any splinters or nails that could hurt an employee during their use. They therefore help keep the warehouse or work areas clean. They are available in different colors to facilitate visual identification, to comply with color codes for different work zones or to match the colors of the companies. In many cases, they can also be identified using a sticker, an ID plate or by hot stamping. It becomes easier to manage or recognize them if they are in circulation. Thanks to the corners or self-locking edges located directly on the body of the bins or on the lids, the pallet boxes can safely stack on top of each other. As a result, they help save floor space by stacking up and maximizing truck loads.

Corporate image and advertising

They help keep warehouses and workspaces clean giving a better image of the company, because they do not make any debris such as rusty nails or splinters of wood, which regularly stand out from wooden crates or mess up the floor. They are available in several colours to meet the colour code requirements of various departments, like in food processing plans for example, to facilitate visual identification of products or to simply harmonize with the colours of the company.

Because they keep their integrity at all times and are coloured, they improve the overall image of the companies that use them. They can also be identified by hot stamping, labels or ID plates. On those identification, some companies will want to number them, identify the content or add the full name of the company and its logo to spread their name in the market or to easily follow and recognize their equipment when they are in distribution and they leave the pallet boxes at their customer’s plant.

The features of pallet boxes

What makes possible to differentiate the pallet boxes from one another, to determine whether they are appropriate or not for a specific use, are their particularities. Actually, there are several things to consider before choosing a particular model.

The choice can be based on several features; the pallet type under the bin, which must be consistent with how the crate will be handled, the type of walls, depending on whether the bin needs to be watertight or ventilated, the thickness of the walls to ensure they are strong enough for the content, the angle of the walls that will allow them to nest or stack if needed, the manufacturing process that can affect the impact resistance depending on the temperature of use, the food certification, the accessories offered to maximize their use and, of course, their specific characteristics regarding their dimensions, load capacity and volume. All of these will have a direct impact on the performance and durability of the pallet box in a particular project.

Pallet type under the bin – 9-leg or with runners

The type of pallet under plastic bulk containers can be different from one model to another, some have 9 legs and others have runners. It’s important to know how the bin will be handled to choose the right pallet type. In some cases, several types of pallets are offered for the same bin. It is therefore possible to select the palette that will best suit the application.

The pallet base can have a configuration with nine legs to clear the four sides on the bin to have access in all directions using a pallet truck or forklift. These legs can also be interconnected with 2 or 3 runners, positioned in one direction or the other, so as to give more strength to the box and to be able to turn it on rotating forks to empty it. To make a choice, it is necessary to know the way the plastic bins will be handled, transported or shipped, while taking into account the equipment used in the plan, in the transport trucks or even among the customer’s plant, who will receive their goods or be the end user, because it can be nice to accommodate them as well in the handling process.

The type of walls – solid or ventilated

The type of walls – solid or ventilated

Depending on the model, the pallet boxes are made with solid or perforated walls to meet applications requiring either a watertight box or a ventilated one.

To preserve the freshness and preservation of fruits and vegetables for example, the agriculture field is using vented pallet boxes for the collection, storage and transportation of the harvest products in bulk. The food processing plans are also big consumers of ventilated food-grade plastic bins for storage of food materials in refrigerators and freezers, where the air must circulate easily to preserve the freshness of food. The vented walls and bottom are also interesting for other industries that are looking for the possibility of soaking, draining or drying the contents when stored in crates.

Solid walls plastic boxes are for the most part watertight and can contain a liquid. A drain is either installed during manufacture, otherwise it can be added as needed. There are many more model choices with solid walls than vented walls. Food processing plans are also major consumers of solid walls combo boxes, they are mainly utilized to store raw materials to be used on production lines or to contain processed products such as animal carcasses, nuts, cheeses or any other type of fresh, frozen or processed products.

Plastic pallet crates can be used under any circumstances such as warehousing, handling, shipping and exports. Which makes them found everywhere; in fields and farms, warehouses, food plans, chemical, pharmaceutical and aeronautic industries, recycling plants, distribution centres, etc.

The wall thickness

There is a good difference between single, double and triple wall pallet boxes, not only on the rigidity, load capacity and durability of the box itself, but also on its function, on its context of use, and of course, its price. On single solid-wall pallet boxes, even though a drain can be installed as an option, most of them are not really designed to be filled to the top brim with a liquid, as the walls will swell under the pressure of the liquid, walls could be deformed and the lid will no longer fit on the box. However, most models can easily be filled to half without any problems and without causing any deformation.

On the other side, all double and triple-wall pallet boxes come standard with a drain, because they were designed to contain liquid, as well as solids.

Single walls: crates have only one thickness of walls. The walls can be either solid or ventilated. This is the most popular and affordable type of crate. A perforated wall can easily be repaired by plastic welding.

The wall thickness

Insulated double walls: insulated bins have two thicknesses of walls, but to make them stronger, an insulating polyurethane is blown between the two walls. Because of that, the walls can only be solid, it is impossible to have them ventilated. If by accident a wall is punctured and a liquid enters, the polyurethane that is filled with air cavities will become contaminated because the liquid can’t be removed or dried. In this case, the combo box could not be welded, and if it would be, it wouldn’t be considered food grade anymore.

Triple walls: the pallet boxes have three thicknesses of walls, but this time it is a very dense and solid polyethylene foam that fills the space between the two walls. Again, there is no possibility to make ventilated walls, only solid walls. It is very interesting to note that if a wall is punctured, the polyethylene foam is so dense that nothing can get into it, not even a liquid, so the hole can be cleaned and welded and the box can be reused, even in a food plant.

Types of walls – straight or tapered

Types of walls – straight or tapered

Straight walls: they allow the pallet boxes to be stacked on top of each other to make a very stable and safe stack. Because of the straight walls, when the bins are stacked, it is all the circumference of the box underneath that supports the weight of the pile; that means the four walls and the corners. Because of this, the lid is not needed for stacking, but it can be installed to protect the contents. The straight walls allow stacking several boxes one on top of the other, up to 10 in some cases, so it becomes very interesting for saving floor space in a warehouse or even outside, or to optimize transport.

Tapered walls: they allow the pallet boxes to be nested in each other when empty to save warehouse space and reduce empty transport costs. Unlike straight walls, the base of the tapered wall bins is smaller than the periphery of the top, so that it can fit into each other. For this reason, nesting bins, with oblique walls, necessarily require a cover to be stacked on each other. It’s the lid itself that supports the total load, not the walls and corners of the box. Stacking a dynamic load, when moved on forks, is then restricted to a maximum of 2 units. In the case of a static load, when stored on the ground, it is a maximum of 3 or 4 units, depending on the model of the bin.

Processes of manufacture – rotomoulding, injection or structured foam

Despite the fact that all pallet boxes are made from the same original virgin material which is high-density polyethylene, the manufacturing process will have a direct impact on the rigidity of the final product, its thickness, its resistance to shocks and on its general properties such as the texture and finish of the walls, the flexibility of the product, as well as its load capacity. Also, each process doesn’t have the same production rate, in fact, the production time is much slower in rotomoulding than in injection or structured foam. If the products are made to order, the manufacturing process may have a direct impact on the lead time of getting a large number of pieces, in a short period of time.

By comparison, according to the different manufacturing processes used, the walls flexibility of a plastic bulk container, starting from the most flexible to the most rigid, would be; rotational moulding, injection and structured foam. Considering the flexibility of rotomoulding a major advantage over the impact resistance, especially at low temperature, these are bins to be indicated for a robust application in cold weather or when the bins are handled very frequently where frequent impacts cannot be avoided.

A pallet box made by structural foam will be very strong, rigid and have a good load capacity, but will be more vulnerable to cold impacts, because the plastic is very hard and dense, so tends to break and loose pieces. On the other hand, a rotomoulded bin will not break up, it will erupt without losing pieces.

Injection: The melted plastic is injected under pressure into a closed mould cavity, next, it is immediately pressed, giving it the desired shape. The piece is then rapidly cooled into the mould, thereby maintaining its exact shape. This process allows to create solid or ventilated plastic bins with simple walls in large quantities, with uniform thickness and great durability. The surface of products is smooth and easy to maintain.

Injection and structural foam: The melted plastic is injected under pressure into a closed mould cavity to give the desired shape to the product. Next, nitrogen gas or another propellant substance is introduced into the mould while the product is cooling to create bullous areas. The part is completely cooled into the mould, to ensure that it maintains its exact shape. This process allows to create simple or complex shape single-wall pallet boxes with solid or vented walls, with a uniform thickness and various finishes of surfaces. This method provides rigid and durable plastic bulk containers, with a high load capacity.

Rotational moulding: The plastic, in powder form, is mixed with a colour dye, then inserted into a mould which goes into a high-temperature oven. The mould rotates on two axes allowing the plastic and the colour dye to disperse evenly and reproduce the internal shape of the mould. Once the mould is taken out of the oven, the plastic cools and solidifies. When the part is well cooled, it can be extracted from the mould. This process has a low production rate compared to any other processes, so it provides small quantities of parts per day. The final products can have a very smooth surface finish as the meat bins or the combo fish boxes, or may be a little bit more porous, which is not always easy to maintain, because it can scratch more easily and make little recesses where the dirt can get stuck, but that is mostly when the product is slid on the floor. It allows the creation of plastic pallet boxes with single or double walls, and those double walls can be filled with an insulated polyurethane or even become a triple-wall bin, when filled with a polyethylene foam. The rotational moulded solid plastic bins have a softer plastic, a great durability and are highly resistant to shocks.

Characteristics – load capacity, dimensions and volume

Since the variety of pallet boxes is wide on the market, it is important to choose the model that will meet the requirements of the application.

The load capacity

It is first necessary to respect the load capacity of the pallet box in order to ensure that once in use, they can safely contain the products on the ground, on forks or in a racking system. The specifications given by the manufacturer for this purpose are important to follow to ensure the safety of employees, maintain the integrity of the pallet box, as well as to ensure that the cover will still fit the shape of the box when filled. If the weight of the contents exceeds the specified load capacity, the walls of the pallet box may swell under the pressure of weight and yield.

Also, the number of boxes that can be stacked is always based on the maximum load capacity of the pallet boxes, so by loading them more than their capacity, the walls or the lid of the bottom box could sag. On a forklift, the pallet under the box could force too much, bend and break because of the over weight. It is therefore essential to validate the load capacity and to respect it.

Internal and external dimensions

Using a plastic pallet box can be very different than the usual cardboard ones. One thing to check is that the dimensions of the parts that go inside the plastic pallet box work well with the internal dimensions of it, because due to the thickness of the walls, there may be up to 5 inches difference between the internal and external measurements of the box. People who are used to working with large 40” x 48” x 48” cardboard boxes deposited on a pallet are the first to be surprised by the internal dimensions because the cardboard boxes have thin walls, and the total volume as well is smaller when they pass to plastic pallet boxes.

Indeed, the length and the width decrease because of the thickness of the walls, but the internal height also decreases because the box comes with a pallet. In fact, the pallet adds height to the bin dimensions but contains nothing. To know the internal height of a box, 6’’ must be subtracted from the overall measurement.

When selecting a plastic bulk box, it becomes very important to consider both internal and external measures, to ensure that everything will fit and be appropriate for what it contains, as for the place where it will be handled or stored. It must, for example, be able to slip under equipment, enter the conveyor, pass through a standard door, optimize the storage space in the warehouse or a fridge, maximize the transport truck or even meet the available dimensions at the customer’s plant who might be the end user.

Volume

On other occasions, it will be the volume that will be prioritized when selecting a pallet box. For example, the bulk container may contain a complete batch of products, a soaking liquid that will not overflow when the products are introduced, or it has to be more voluminous, leaving an internal height to prevent splashing during transport of liquids or sauces to refrigerators or processing lines.

If each of these specifications is taken into account before making the purchase of pallet boxes, you make sure to work most effectively and thus, facilitate operations, increase the production rate, reduce packaging and unpacking time, save on disposable packaging, maximizing space in the warehouse and during transport.

Make a selection according to use

To optimize the overall use of pallet boxes, but mostly to preserve their condition and maximize their life cycle, there are some factors to consider when selecting it, it must be ensured that it is well adapted to the desired use:

Content type

The solid or vented bins must be selected taking into consideration the type of product to be contained, because the choice of material, the type and thickness of the walls will not be the same if the content is liquid, solid, hot, frozen food, industrial or chemicals, etc.

The temperature of use

The temperature will influence the rigidity and durability of the plastic pallet boxes. The impact resistance will not be the same at room temperature, in a refrigerator, a freezer, within a stable temperature or outside with UV rays and sudden variations, etc. It is therefore necessary to make a choice based on the temperature of use and to take into account the manufacturing process. The right combination will optimize its service life.

Handling equipment

It is important to know with what type of equipment the plastic bulk containers will be handled with, to choose a model that will have the right pallet base type to maximize the handling and use of it. It can be designed with 9 legs with 2 or 3 runners, connecting the legs with each other, on one side or the other. The runners are either replaceable or moulded in the box. The pallet base type will be determined according to whether the handling equipment is a forklift, a pallet jack, a rotary fork system, a conveyor, an industrial washing machine, etc.

Food accreditation

When the food-grade pallet boxes are going to be used in a food processing plan, a pharmaceutical centre, a laboratory, or just in a cold room or a freezer of a restaurant or a hospital for example, the rules of hygiene and sanitation are stricter and the bins must respect them. Therefore, they must comply with FDA or CFIA standards to be accepted. Inspectors are responsible for validating this compliance.

Food accreditation – FDA AND CFIA

All the pallet boxes that we are promoting are compliant for food contact, but they also serve very well all other areas that do not really need this approval. Every type of industries can use those multipurpose bins because they are very easy to use, durable and they are the perfect type of packaging to facilitate the handling, storage and transport of bulk products in general.

FDA pallet boxes are all made with a virgin polyethylene resin, which means from a first melting, not from recycled material. This resin is white, but by adding a food grade colour dye, the variety of colours becomes very large. This choice of various colours will be quite suitable for food processing plans for example, as they often work with colour codes separating departments, products, allergens, edible from non-edible products or even for discards or garbage products.

FDA: “Food and Drug Administration” – American Standard

The FDA (American Food and Drug Administration) does not approve of a product, it sets the rules that require compliance. All pallet boxes are made from virgin polyethylene that meets the FDA’s standards.

So when we say that a product meets the FDA standards, it indicates that the manufacturing methods and the resin used are meeting its requirements. It is not the article itself or its part number that is accepted, but the material with which it was made that meets the standards. As mentioned above, all pallet boxes that we are offering are FDA compliant, so they can all be used to hold fresh, frozen or processed foods.

For information, all pallet boxes made from recycled resin do not comply with the FDA standards, even though this resin is derived from the granulation of products that were originally made from 100% virgin polyethylene. In fact, a second fusion, no matter what, is no longer considered food grade, it is automatically classified recycled. On the other hand, there are qualities of recycled plastic, either 100% polyethylene or polyethylene mixed with other types of plastics. But we are no longer talking about accreditation here.

CFIA = “Canadian Food Inspection Agency” – Canadian Federal Standard

Some plastic combo boxes also have the CFIA accreditation; which is a Canadian federal approval.

It is the federal government agency responsible for Canada’s food safety, but it also works in the field of the environment and the food economy, animal health and plant protection and food safety.

It certifies that the product itself and its components comply with food requirements. It is therefore the entire product and its colour that are coded under a specific number by the manufacturer, and it is this specific number that is approved. In recent years, this agency no longer authorizes products, but it nevertheless keeps accessible the list of products that have been registered over time. The CFIA pallet boxes are often named CFIA combo bins or directly named by their utility as meat bins or fish bins.

Options and accessories

It is possible to optimize the use of the pallet box with added accessories or choose different options to further facilitate the work of the employees by making it even more efficient and operational.

Drain

If the pallet box does not already have a drain, it is possible to add one by choosing its position on the bin. A drain may seem basic, but the choice of its location on the box is important when evaluating how the pallet box will be used. Indeed, it can either facilitate or complicate the work.

Because the drain can be installed on the short or long side of the box, the choice has to be made by thinking about where the box will be handled and located. If it is against a wall, better place the drain on the side that it will be easily accessible. The choice can also be made according to the positioning of the type of pallet under the bin, that is to say on the open side or the side where the runners are, those that connect the legs together, because depending on the facade by which the body will handle by the forklift, the drain could be damaged.

Lids

On some pallet boxes, different types of lids are offered to protect the content; there is the standard lid that just covers the bin, the hinged lid, that allow to lift only one side and the other side can have a lock, or the T-latch lid, that come with four fastener straps to hold the cover in place to secure the contents during the transport or storage, or when the boxes are used outdoor and it’s windy, it avoids the risk of losing it.

In some cases, the lids are available only in white, even if the pallet boxes are offered in several colours, while other models offer the colour matching the bin. To perfectly suit the needs, the lids can be customized or can be made from scratch.

Casters

In order to facilitate the handling of the bins, mostly when areas are restricted or cannot accommodate forklifts or pallet trucks, casters or trolleys can be added under the pallet boxes. In the case of casters, two positions are possible; directly under the four corner legs, which automatically raises the height of the bin by 7″ and removes the possibility of being stacked on another one to save floor space. When the casters are installed directly under the base, between the central and the corner legs, the pallet box keeps the advantage of being stacked on another one because the wheels slightly penetrate the box underneath. It makes a safe and stable pile. The stackable wheels add a height of 4.8″ to the bin and help save space in the warehouse, in transport, or making it easier to move multiple crates at a time.

Dolly

In the case of the dolly, it allows the same displacement as the casters do, but it offers the advantage of using the pallet box as standard if necessary. Because it is not permanent like the casters, it can be removed to use the bin in a regular application. The dolly is made of steel with 6″ casters and raises the pallet box of 7″ in total. It allows to move several pallet boxes stacked at a time.

Access Doors

To facilitate the access to the contents, an access door can be added. It can be installed either on the short or long side of the bin, or even both sides if needed. It facilitates the work of employees and maximize operations. Access doors become necessary when the pallet boxes are loaded and unloaded by hand and have walls over 36″, because leaning over the walls to reach the content on the bottom can become painful or not safe for employees.

Three types of doors are available: a hinge door, a removable panel or a cut-out opening; thus, the wall is cut to the desired size. The most popular model is the hinged door, because it allows to fill the entire box when closing the door, which the cut-out door does not always aloud. Also, it greatly reduces the possibility of losing or breaking the door because it is always attached to the box, so no part management and disorder. It is possible to choose the size of the door, in width and height, so that the loading is the easiest as possible.

Customized Sizes

Finally, another option is offered to make the pallet boxes even more practical and profitable; it is to have them manufactured in the desired dimensions. This is a great advantageous option when the choice of standard boxes available on the market does not seem to suit the need. Pallet boxes can be manufactured to specific dimensions to better meet the requirements of the application.

During a custom-made manufacturing, the starting is done with a standard box of 40″ w x 48″ l x 31″ h which will be modified in width, length or height. To obtain bigger dimensions than the original one, 2 or 3 crates can be are cut and weld together.

By changing one dimension out of three, we obtain:

  • A pallet box with varied length: 40″ w x (20″ to 136 ” l) x 31″ h
  • A pallet box with varied width: (20″ to 136″ w) x 48″ l x 31″ h
  • A pallet box with various heights: 40″ w x 48″ l x (10″ to 77″ h)

The combination of 2 dimensional changes at once is also possible, but not all 3 at the same time.

Identifications et colours

By respecting the minimum required, it is also possible to opt for customization such as identification by stickers, plates or hot stamping, or choose a specific colour for manufacturing.

Without any doubt, the options are varied and very interesting. They allow to facilitate the work, maximize handling, increase efficiency and reduce wasted time.

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