Straw Pallets – A Game Changer?
Rising sea levels, deforestation, melting of the polar ice caps are all familiar words and phrases used in relation to our environment. For years scientists and activists have been lobbying the need to reduce our carbon footprint. Whilst there has been progress in terms of changing consumer demands and mindset, much remains to be done.
Pallets have been around since early 1910s, but the reliance of pallets only grew rapidly during World War II.
What started as a simple combination of wooden planks to transport food and munitions, the evolution of the modern pallet has since grown into a multi-million dollar industry with different types of materials introduced to make a pallet.
However, environmental concerns of waste generated from disposing used pallets have led to innovative ideas using alternative materials to match the robustness and cost effectiveness of the wood or plastic pallet.
One such idea set to be a game changer is the introduction of straw pallets from Eco-Pak. It uses agriculture waste fibre from harvested wheat and rice stalk to form a truly environmentally friendly material. This waste, often in abundance are burned after harvest, creating smog, and resulting in high carbon emissions in many parts of the world. Instead of adding on to the pollution, a solution was found for these agriculture by-products.
These fibres are bonded together under extreme heat and pressure to produce a high-density material capable of withstanding harsh conditions. Research and statistics have shown that for every 6 sqm (thickness of 15mm) of fibre board produced, it is almost equivalent to saving a tree of 80ft tall with 2ft diameter.
What it translates into is the massive potential reduction of deforestation, slowing down man-made CO2 emissions.
This straw pallet promises to be a rising star in the packing industry. This formaldehyde free product allows users to do multi-country export shipments, without the need of replacing pallets within the chain of supply due to its ISPM 15 compliance. The need for fumigation and heat treatment is eliminated before transit to the next destination. The same pallet can be used multiple times, creating a cost saving cycle within the chain.
Wood is currently the preferred choice of pallets due to its availability and cost efficiency. It is estimated that 85% of the pallets ‘floating’ around the world are made from wood. Recent trends have also seen many companies switching to plastic pallets due to its effectiveness and longevity in terms of usage.
While both type of pallets have their merits, there are in fact more ‘cons’ than ‘pros’ in using wood and plastic in the long run.
Wood pallets are readily available and affordable, but their low-density nature does not make them ideal for long term storage as it will absorb moisture and become ‘soft’ overtime. It is also susceptible to bacteria and termites. This creates a high turnover rate in replacement, incurring unnecessary costs.
Wood pallets used for export shipments also contain an unhealthy level of formaldehyde due to fumigation, posing an unnecessary health risk for cargo handlers.
Plastic pallets were once considered the best alternative to wood pallets due to its ‘clean’ nature and longer life span. but in today’s context of environment concerns, it cannot be said the same anymore. One notorious concern is the disposal of plastic pallets when it reaches the end of its life cycle. Landfills cannot accept these plastic pallets as it is not biodegradable. The current solution of sending plastic waste to the incinerator is no more than a stop gap measure, as another problem arises from the burning of waste, smog. Disposing plastic pallets are proving to be more inconvenient than using them. As a matter of fact, the smog generated from refineries to extract polymers from crude oil to manufacture plastic is already posing a major health and environment risk to us!
The use of plastic and its harm to the environment is currently generating global concern. It is believed that it is only a matter of time before legislation is implemented to ban the manufacture and use of plastic pallets. Natural wood pallets are also under scrutiny whilst the production of steel to manufacture metal-based pallets causes air pollution from steel mills.
The straw pallet can provide users a balanced alternative. Cost efficiency, strength and durability are its core advantages. Other unique features of the straw pallet include its moist resistant, fire-retardant, and anti-termite properties. This high-density pallet is ideal for long term storage both indoor and outdoor as well. All these are made possible with state of the art manufacturing facilities which also comply with international environment and health standards.
Sustainability is a real hot topic in recent times, and we must look forward and consider our long-term options for the continuation and sustainability for our planet. Governments are also beginning to enact legislation which will mandate that all goods being imported to or exported from their jurisdictions, must be transported using materials that meets sustainability criteria. Failure to comply could result in goods being denied entry or may not be given an export permit.
Furthermore, company directors have a duty of care to ensure that they are practicing “ethically sustainable business methods” and may be held legally liable if they fail to do so. With consumers becoming more environmentally conscious, it is increasingly important for companies to ‘walk the talk’. Sustainability measures are not only socially responsible, but good business as well. While maintaining a healthy profit/loss statement, it is equally important to do so in a sustainable manner.
Major companies like HP (Hewlett Packard) have already begun adopting sustainable strategies in line with their CSR. While demonstrating their commitment with the straw pallet programme, they have also reported costs savings in their operations expenditure.
Recently in 2019, the DBS Marina Regatta was held at the marina bay front. It featured an outdoor maze which was made from the same material as the straw pallet. Food stalls and furniture were also designed and constructed, demonstrating the adaptiveness and unique abilities of the straw material by creating other forms of structure which can be incorporated into our daily lives.
Procurement plays an important role in all organisations and “Sustainable Procurement ” is becoming ever more prevalent at a government level, as well as among organisations who understand that their practices and policies have far reaching environmental, social, and economic impacts. We must continue to inspire and promote sustainability. It is time to give serious consideration towards adopting “Sustainable Procurement” policies to prepare for eco-friendly legislation and, the demands of both society and customers.
At Eco-pak, we are committed to help companies fulfil their CSR. The introduction of the straw pallet demonstrates our position in working towards a simple goal of reducing our planet’s waste and making it more liveable.