The wood pallet has been around for more than 50 years. It was developed to work with the mechanized forklift with its two metal fingers that efficiently lift the pallet and its load, according to DNS Pallets: Supporting the Industry. However, lumber became more costly in recent years; since 2004, pallets have been considered waste material. In 1994, over 425 million pallets were manufactured to effectively move goods safely and efficiently across countries and within the United States. There are now more than one billion pallets built every year that must be recycled or disposed of in a safe and economical manner.
Sell or donate wood pallets to companies who recycle them to help the communities in which they are located. Pallet Recycling Associates of North America Inc., headquartered in St. Paul, Minn., has offices in 27 states. Some of the wood is donated by recycling companies to those who cannot afford to buy firewood for heating their homes.
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Place an ad in your local paper offering the wood pallets for free to anyone willing to come and pick them up. Many people reuse the wood to build patio furniture, garden boxes, compost bins and more.
Dismantle the pallets and feed them through a wood chipper to make wood chips used as mulch. The mulch can be sold to individuals or garden centers.
IFCO Systems North America is the largest pallet recycler in North America, partnering with customers, vendors and suppliers. The North Carolina Recycling Markets Directory has information on recycling locations.
Chemically-treated wood should not be burned as a source of home heat. Some pallets are treated with arsenic to prolong the life of the wood left outdoors. Wood pallets are no longer allowed in landfills in the United States.