Life cycle assessment comparison of wooden and plastic pallets in the grocery industry

Sebastian K. Anil, Junfeng Ma, Gül E. Kremer, Charles David Ray, Shirin M. Shahidi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

Wooden and plastic pallets are used extensively in global trade to transport finished goods and products. This article compares the life cycle performance of treated wooden and plastic pallets through a detailed cradle-to-grave life cycle assessment (LCA), and conducts an analysis of the various phytosanitary treatments. The LCA investigates and evaluates the environmental impacts due to the resources consumed and emissions of the product throughout its life cycle. The environmental impacts of the pallets are compared on a one-trip basis and a 100,000-trips basis. Impact categories are chosen with respect to environmental concerns. The results show that on a one-trip basis, wooden pallets with conventional and radio frequency (RF) heat treatment incur an overall carbon footprint of 71.8% and 80.3% lower, respectively, than plastic pallets during their life cycle; and in comparison with wooden pallets treated with methyl bromide fumigation, they incur 20% and 30% less overall carbon footprint. Theoretical calculations of the resource consumption and emissions of RF treatment of pallets suggest that dielectric technology may provide a lower-carbon alternative to both current ISPM 15-approved treatments and to plastic pallets. Methyl bromide fumigation (15.95 kg CO2 equivalent [eq.]) has a larger carbon footprint than conventional heat treatment (12.69 kg CO2 eq.) of pallets. For the 100,000-trips basis, the differences are even more significant. The results recommend that wooden pallets are more environmentally friendly than plastic pallets, and conventional and RF heat treatment for wooden pallets is more sustainable than methyl bromide fumigation treatment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)871-886
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Industrial Ecology
Volume24
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 1 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Social Sciences(all)

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