Information guide about pallets
The plastic pallet market has grown and evolved in recent years. The companies that are using them realize that there are several benefits related to plastic pallets, rather than wooden ones. However, since there are many more different models of plastic than wood pallets, it’s important to select the right model that will be appropriated for the conditions and handling that needs to be done, to appreciate their effectiveness and durability.
Plastic pallets can be moulded from different materials, by different manufacturing processes, and the shape of the mold can also be very variable from model to model. This makes the variety of pallets available on the market very large and sometimes difficult to navigate. Indeed, according to their design, they can have specific characteristics that can harm or benefit their use in a specific application. Our specialists can advise you on the type of pallets best suited to your project, compare models to each other to specify the advantages and disadvantages of each model, and guide you through the choice of pallets that exist on the market.
The standard wooden pallets are almost always built in the same way, they can have various dimensions and can be some different configurations, but nothing more. There are always blue CHEP pallets, which are a specific model because they are subject to chemical fumigation or heat treatment to prevent the spread of pests. But these are pallets available for rent only.
Plastic pallets, on the other hand, can have different configurations, dimensions, certifications and colours, to meet a specific need more precisely, or to serve a definite market. They are also made from different kinds of plastic resins, all of which have specific properties, but all are inert to insects, bacteria, fungi and chemicals. There are often even options, giving the possibility of further customizing the pallets, thus making them even more efficient for a given application, and thus maximize their performance.
Types of pallets
Unlike the wooden pallet, where there are not so many questions to ask before making the purchase, it is necessary, for the plastic pallet, to think of several points before stopping on a model accurate and to make the purchase. Otherwise, it may well be that in the end, the chosen pallet does not meet the need, is not effective or breaks prematurely.
That being said, there are a number of factors that define a plastic pallet. It is important to consider these when selecting a pallet. And since there are many models, you have to know how to classify them. Some plastic pallets have unique designs, so they can be categorized according to their design. Others may be catalogued depending on their application.
Nestable plastic pallets
The design of these tapered pallets is very precise; the base consists of legs and the top has nesting registration holes that match the footprint of the pallet legs, for introducing them when the top pallet enters the pallet from below, when empty. The pallet top can be solid or perforated (ventilated). Because these pallets fit into each other, they have the main advantage of using less floor space, so they maximize warehouses and reduce empty transport costs.
Stackable plastic pallets
The design of these pallets is variable, but in general, stackable pallets are very similar to wooden pallets. The base has runners binding the legs together and the top may be solid or vented. The runners give more body and strength to the pallet, preventing them from bending when manipulated on forks.
The runners also make it possible to distribute the load more evenly when the pallets are doubled, that is to say that a pallet of goods is deposited directly on another pile of goods, so as to double the height of the piles to maximize the space in the warehouse or in the transport trucks. The runners give more surface contact, they’d better distribute the weight of the pallet on the boxes or other items underneath, without damaging them, compared to a nestable 9-legged pallet that would fit deeper into the bottom stack.
Rackable plastic pallets
Rackable pallets are also stackable, so they stack one over the other, so they don’t save space either. In fact, their design is very similar to the stackable pallet models, but the conception of the rackable plastic pallets is stronger. It is difficult for the naked eye to identify a rackable pallet 100% sure. So, to validate if the pallet is really a rackable pallet, we must rely on the manufacturer’s specifications, which will then indicate a rack load capacity.
Most pallet models in this category have dimensions of 40″ x 48″ or 48″ x 48″. The main feature of a rackable pallet is that it can be used in a specific racking system, like a push-back system, which has on each side, a 3-inch square brackets, which serve to support only the rim of the pallet, while all the rest of it, is in the air and unsupported. This type of racking system allows the forklift to enter between the rows to go all to the end to place or take a pallet. This is the type of racking system that offers the greatest space optimization. To ensure the safety of employees and facilities, the pallets used in this type of racking must absolutely be rackable pallets.
Classification en fonction de l’application
Certaines palettes en plastique peuvent aussi être classées en fonction de leur utilité ou en fonction du contexte dans lequel elles sont normalement utilisées. On retrouve les palettes en plastique alimentaires, industrielles, d’exportation, pour barils, pour le contrôle des déversements. Cette façon de classer les palettes aide définitivement les gens qui recherchent des palettes, car avec tous les modèles qui existent sur le marché, il serait très difficile de s’y retrouver.
Food-grade pallet accreditation – FDA / CFIA
In Canada, the two types of accreditation are accepted by inspectors; FDA and CFIA. Most industries that use food-grade plastic pallets are requesting documents approving the pallets are food compliant. They will have to show those documents to the inspectors who will make the audits.
FDA: Food and Drug Administration – American Food Standard
The FDA does not approve of a product, it sets the rules that require compliance.
All pallets are made from a virgin plastic resin that complies with FDA (US Food and Drug Administration) standards.
When a product meets FDA standards, it is FDA compliant, that indicates that the manufacturing methods and both, the resin and the pigments used in making coloured, are safe for direct food contact. In this case, the product meets the FDA requirements. It is not the article itself or its part number that is accepted, it’s the material with which it was manufactured that meets the standards. As mentioned above, all FDA-compliant pallets can be used to handle or store fresh, frozen or processed foods, or any other consumable products.
CFIA = Canadian Food Inspection Agency – Canadian Federal Standard
Some pallets also have CFIA accreditation; which is a Canadian federal approval.
It is the federal government agency responsible for Canada’s food security, but it is also active 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.
Materials of the Food-Grade Pallets
To be considered food grade, the plastic pallets must be made from virgin raw material, which is natural white, but a food colourant can be added. Here, no recycled material is acceptable. The food colour most commonly encountered in the food-pallet market is blue. However, some manufacturers offer other colours to better serve the food and pharmaceutical industries, which frequently work with colour codes to visually identify different work areas, a specific product or an allergen, an edible or non-edible product or even to easily distinct a function.
Industrial plastic pallets are commonly used for the storage or transportation of general goods. In fact, these are the most popular plastic pallets, the choice is very large and models are varied to meet all the handling and storage needs that a company can have. They come in a variety of sizes, materials, thicknesses and designs to meet a light-duty use, requiring a lighter, lower-cost pallet, than for a heavy-duty use, requiring a robust, impact-resistant pallet that can have a high load capacity.
Industrial pallets do not have to meet any control standards or do not have to possess any certifications. However, they may be offered in a fire-retardant version, to meet the requirements of some insurance companies, or be made from metal or X-rays detectable materials, but again, these are options offered by some manufacturers to meet specific industry’s requirements.
Materials of Industrial Pallets
Industrial plastic pallets are usually made from recycled polyethylene or polypropylene because there is no need to pay more for a virgin resin if the pallets never go into the food processing rooms. Rather, they are used for general handling, warehousing, transportation of all kinds of goods, or even for the export of products that require a more robust pallet than the pallets normally used for this purpose. Some applications are requiring a very high load capacity, so in this case, even a food-grade plastic pallet could be used in the industrial field. In point of fact, the food-grade pallets are made from virgin materials, which is stronger than the recycled resin. In addition, they are offered in colour and sometimes, these two properties will be wanted and it’s the food-grade plastic pallets that will best serve the industrial application.
Type of Industrial Pallets
The industrial plastic pallets are available in a nestable version with a 9-leg base or in a stackable version with three different designs for the base. The first can have 3 runners, leaving a complete opening on two sides for the pallet truck. The second can have 4 runners on the contour and a central leg, and it can still be used with a pallet jack. The third one has 6 runners, 4 forming a frame and 2 forming a centre cross, this version is offering a better load capacity for more robust applications or racking storage.
Export plastic pallets
Export plastic pallets are mainly used for export or unreturned shipping, so they are for single use only. In this case, it is well not to pay them dearly since they won’t be profitable because their use won’t be repetitive. However, when used internally with care, they could probably be reused 2 to 3 times without breaking, but this is not at all the type of pallets to select for internal handling, they are way too much fragile. They are simply not designed for this purpose.
To be as economical as possible, export pallets are made with very little quantity of plastic, which gives them a light weight, but do not offer good impact resistance. However, they have sufficient load capacity to support a load to the destination.
Materials of Export Pallets
Apart from the small amount of material used to make these pallets, another reason explain their low impact resistance; they are made from a mixture of different types of recycled plastic, rather than from a single kind of recycled resin. Since all plastic resins have specific characteristics and properties, if they are mixed, the result is a more fragile and less stable material, so it is more brittle. Also, this mix of materials is suitable for dry places only, it does not react well in contact with water or moisture. Greyish bubbles may form on all surfaces of the pallets.
To meet the needs of the export market, which sometimes requires more durable pallets for heavy loads, some manufacturers are designing more robust export pallets made from 100% polyethylene or 100% polypropylene. This design gives the same pallets, but in a stronger and more robust version to ensure that the pallets will hold up to the final destination and that their contents will be well protected during the trip. Export pallets made from 100% polyethylene or polypropylene perfectly withstand moisture and water, as well as insects, fungi or chemicals.
Types of export pallets
They are normally offered in 2 versions; nestable with a legged base that saves space, or stackable version with runners that are added under the legs for strength. In this case, there are two base-type versions that can be created, a base with 3 clipped runners or a one-piece base made of 6 runners that are clipped to the legs. If the runners are broken, it would be possible to change them, but it is not easy to remove them once they are clipped to the legs.
Plastic drum pallets
The stackable plastic drum pallets are standard pallets, on which there are 3 or 4 rings about 1″ height, moulded on the pallet surface and used to hold the barrels. They are therefore stackable plastic pallets. The 3-drum pallet has a foot print of 40″ x 48″ with 3 rings, while the 4-drum pallets are 48″ x 48″ and has 4 moulded rings. The purpose of these rings is to secure the barrels on the pallet, preventing them from moving and slipping off the pallet while transporting them. It’s a lot safer to use these specialized pallets than to take standard plastic pallets without these rings, because the risk that the barrels slide off the pallet is considerable, especially when the pallet is handled by the forklift. The present rings secure the loading as well as employees.
Materials of plastic drum pallets
The vast majority of plastic drum pallets are made from 100% polyethylene. Certain areas of activity, such as the food plants and pharmaceutical sector, must use FDA-compliant drum pallets to enter any white rooms, process rooms or refrigerators. In general, these pallets are moulded in blue for the 40″ x 48″ format and in green for the 48″x 48″ model. The food grade drum plastic pallets are made of virgin food-grade resin of primary fusion, in which a food colouring dye has been added. With minimum quantities, some manufacturers offer the possibility to mold pallets into other food colours to better meet the needs of customers.
When the need is more general, drum pallets in recycled version can be used without a problem. They are composed of a resin made of 100% recycled polyethylene and in this case, the pallets offered are automatically black. This recycled material is perfect for making sturdy pallets for storing or transporting drums in all industries. Whether polyethylene is food grade or recycled, it is resistant to chemicals, moisture, insects, fungi and sudden changes in temperature. These reusable stackable plastic drum pallets offer a long service life and are ideal for stack loading, conveying systems, distribution and static storage.
Types de palettes à barils
La nature de l’application oblige de fabriquer des palettes solides ayant une bonne capacité de charge pour supporter un poids minimal sur des fourches. Ces palettes se doivent d’être sécuritaire, donc toutes les palettes à barils possèdent une base avec des semelles et une croix au centre. Elles doivent alors être utilisées pour faire de la manutention générale à l’aide d’un chariot élévateur ou sur des convoyeurs.
Dans certains cas, des palettes standards peuvent être adaptées à la manipulation de barils en ajoutant des chevilles en caoutchouc empêchant les barils de glisser, mais ces palettes ne sont pas catégorisées comme des palettes à barils.
Types of plastic drums pallets
Basically, the nature of the application requires the manufacture of solid plastic pallets with good dynamic load capacity, because on forks, the pallet must be able to support the minimum weight of 4 full barrels. Considering that the weight of the water is 8.33 lb per US gallon, the pallets must be able to withstand a minimum load of 4 filled drums, or 1833 lb, plus the weight of the barrels, so a minimum load of 1950 lb, before the top of the pallet start to bend and drags off the barrels.
The 3-drum pallets have 3 moulded rings on the top and the 4-drum pallets have 4, and both pallets have a base with runners, they are therefore safe to be handled using a pallet truck, a forklift or even placed on a conveyor. The runners also allow to stack a full pallet of barrels on another pile of barrels. Because of the runners, the load is better distributed on the barrels below. These reusable pallets have a long service life and are ideal for stack loading, conveying systems, distribution and static storage.
In some cases, standard nestable plastic pallets can be adapted to handle drums handling by adding rubber plugs on the top of the pallet to prevent drums from slipping, but these pallets are not categorized as drum pallets. Because of their legs without runners, they facilitate barrel handling using the pallet truck. It is not recommended to stack this type of pallet on another load because of the legs that will not all have a good support.
Photo grommet vert sur CPP + 3 baril Avia sur palette
Spill control pallet
The forkliftable spill control plastic pallets are the only ones of all pallet models to be able to contain liquid spills in case of leaks. They are available in several versions to meet the drums handling needs of the market.
They are available in many versions; 2-barrel side-by-side, 3-barrel in-line, 4-barrel square and 4-barrel in-line. These different styles optimize the storage and handling of drums. They can all be handled by forklift or pallet truck. They are available in yellow or black, with or without drain. They have a removable metal grates on the top to help drain the pallet when needed. The retention capacity varies from one model to another, but it can retain the volume of a full barrel of 55 US gallons (or 45 imperial gallons) in case of leakage. The rule is to be able to recover 120% of the total capacity of the drum, so the spill control pallet will recover at least 66 US gallons, or 54 imperial gallons. The retention pallets meet the standards of the chemical industry for the recovery of dangerous products. They surpass EPS and SPCC standards.
In summary, the plastic pallets with moulded rings are primarily used to store or transport drums safely, while raised models with grates serve both for the handling of barrels and receptacles for the recovery of liquids. Retention pallets protect the environment and employees in case of leaks of chemical products.
The static load is the maximum load that the pallet can support when deposited on the ground. Its base is fully supported on the ground and the pallet is not moving. The pallet base can be designed with legs or runners.
The top of the plastic pallet is full with no holes. In fact, it is full, but some pallets have nesting registration holes that match the footprint of the pallet legs, for introducing them when the top pallet enters the pallet from below to nest them to save space. The legs then have a drainage hole for the evacuation of liquids. The choice of solid-surface pallets is less than vented models, because applications requiring this type of surface are not so numerous. They are also more expensive because they are made of more material. However, they are stronger than the ventilated one and have higher load capacities.
Sometimes, it is for a question of cleanliness that the solid surface is selected. The solid surface also prevents the merchandise from getting dirty or falling on the floor through the holes, like bags of soil, for example. Otherwise, the solid surface will be selected to avoid grid marking of the goods when loaded on the pallet.