Wow! 95% of Wood Pallets Now Being Recycled

Companies that rely on wood pallets to transport their wares now can feel even better about their choice.

The latest research from Virginia Tech indicates that a whopping 95% of all wood pallets are now being recycled. According to trade publication Environmental Leader, the two-year study showed that “wood pallets are increasingly being reused as long as possible, and then are being converted to mulch, animal bedding, or biofuel.”

Avoiding the Landfill

Both municipal solid waste (MSW) and construction and demolition (C&D) landfill facilities were surveyed. The study found that, over the last 20 years, the number of pallets entering landfills has dropped by 86%.

And  pallets that do end up there are often recycled by the waste facilities themselves. Several factors have contributed to this recyling trend at landfills, such as:

  • Environmental awareness,
  • Limited space, and
  • Desire to be more waste efficient

So now many waste facilities also sort and recover several different types of debris.

“Of those wooden pallets that arrive at landfills, both MSW and C&D facilities recycle even further. The results show that landfill facilities have increased their wood and wood pallet recovery areas over the past two decades. For MSW facilities, this number increased from 33% to 62% of facilities, while for C&D facilities, the number increased from 27% to 45%.” — Laszlo Horvath, assistant professor, Virginia Tech

Financial Incentives

Pallet recycling has become a rapidly growing segment of the pallet industry in recent decades. As perceptions have changed, pallet users have gravitated toward more sustainable solutions.

But they also have financial incentives for recycling. Savvy business owners know that reconditioned pallets are just as sturdy and dependable as the originals, and they’re typically offered at a substantially lower price than new pallets of similar quality.


According to the Virginia Tech researchers, U.S. businesses are particularly inclined to recycle their pallets when they are located within close proximity to a pallet recycler or a company that grinds pallets into mulch.

Proof Is in the Data

Members of the Virginia-based National Wooden Pallet and Container Association (NWPCA) were delighted (but not surprised) by the preliminary results of this most recent study.

“Data of this kind had not been collected since 1998,” according to Brad Gething, NWPCA director of science and technology integration. “The wood packaging sector has long been touting their recyclable efforts for decades, and now the data proves it.”

Larry Howell, NWPCA chair, echoed that sentiment. “Our industry is thrilled that the data proves the wood packaging sector, more than any other, is closing in on zero-waste,” Howell said. “Wood pallets are 100 percent recyclable, and the newest research from Virginia Tech shows that our industry has the highest recovery rate, at 95%, compared to other prevalent materials.”

The Virginia Tech research project was funded in part by the US Forest Service and The Pallet Foundation.


Environmental Leader

Construction & Demolition Recycling

Packaging Revolution