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Wooden Pallets, an Eco-Menace?

There are good reasons why the Wall Street Journal recently took wooden pallets to task in a front-page article entitled As Old Pallets Pile Up, Critics Hammer Them As a New Eco-Menace. In the piece, reporter Peter Anderson wrote, "Wooden pallets, generally used to ship consumer goods, are multiplying and burying parking lots, snarling traffic and filling landfill." According to Anderson, experts believe there are six wooden pallets lurking in the US for every person.

The blight doesn't stop there. Despite continual efforts to repair or recycle wooden pallets, a report by the National Center for Environmental Decision-Making Research declared that 6.16 million tons of wood pallets entered municipal solid waste landfills or construction and demolition landfill facilities in 1995.

Another report claims wooden pallets now represent 4% of all solid waste in landfills. Many landfills have stopped accepting pallets and others charge fees for recycling.

The damage isn't limited to the effects of disposal. It starts at the beginning of the manufacturing process. According to Wastebusters, Inc., about 4.7 billion feet of solid hardwoods were consumed for the production of wooden pallets in 1992. Experts now estimate that the current annual production level of 600 million new wooden pallets requires the cutting of nearly one million acres of hardwood trees - trees that take up to 40 years each to replace.

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Crane loading a truck with timber.

Nearly one million acres of hardwood is forested each year to make wooden pallets.