LCA Study finds Corrugated Cardboard Pallets as the most ‘nature-friendly’ standardized loading platform

Aug. 6, 2020
Recently conducted lifecycle assessment study (LCA Study) comparing EUR-sized corrugated cardboard pallet and wooden pallet concluded significantly lower CO2e emissions from the corrugated cardboard pallet when compared through all lifecycle stages.
LCA Study finds Corrugated Cardboard Pallets as the most ‘nature-friendly’ standardized loading platform

Introduction

The fast growth of global trading calls for solutions underpinning the efficient transport and exchange of goods within and across continents. One such standardized and universally accepted solution is the pallet coming in many forms and formats.

Globally, the market for pallets has expanded to 9,9 billion units in use, whereas further growth is expected due to increasing demand from a larger global economy requiring more pallets to accommodate greater shipping requirements, as well as increased utilization of pallets in developing markets (Freedonia Group, 2020).

Corporations’ pursuit of the ESG goals together with remote production sites requiring long-distance deliveries and ineffective pallet pooling systems pressures senders of palletized goods to find single-use, lightweight, affordable, and easy to recycle with minimal impact on the environment.

With many supposedly sustainable pallet solutions being produced across the world in many formats and materials, i.e. wood, plastic, metal, pressed wood, corrugated cardboard, KraftPal conducted an LCA study comparing Corrugated Cardboard Pallets with the most commonly used Wooden pallet. The study evaluates the carbon footprint of standard single-use EUR-sized pallets (1.200 x 800mm) and their impact on climate change by following the methodology used of existing LCA studies and relying on credible secondary sources.

Pallet Lifecycle

pallet lca study - pallet life cycle stages

The life-stages of a pallet cover the following processes:

  • Production: Resource Acquisition; Resources Processing; Production and Assembly
  • Use: Road Transport; Air Transport; Sea Freight
  • End of Life: Recycling; Incineration; Landfill

Study Result

Production Stage

pallet lca study - production stage results

During the Production stage, the KraftPal pallet performs significantly better than the wooden pallet as it requires less input of raw materials (trees) by a factor of 4,7 while the production process of KraftPal pallet emits 52% less CO2e. The difference comes mostly from the fact that the production of KraftPal pallet requires approximately 5 kg of paper pulp and a streamlined production process while the wooden pallet requires more than 21 kg of dry wood and 78 nails.

Use Stage

pallet lca study - use stage results

The KraftPal pallet performed better during the Product use stage regardless of the mean of transport. It’s more than 80% lighter in weight which in comparison to the wooden pallet results in significantly lower fuel consumption and associated CO2e emissions.

End of Life Stage

The end-of-life CO2e emissions should be put in a perspective where they are weighted according to the actual rates of end-of-life treatment of materials:

  • Corrugated cardboard (99% recycled, 0,5% landfilled, 0,5% incinerated)

  • Wood (67,48 % landfilled, 16,68 % recycled, 15,84% incinerated)

pallet lca study - end of life stage results

At the end of life, both pallets perform almost identically. While they both reduce the CO2e, their own end-of-life methods are different. The KraftPal pallets are recycled and can, therefore, be used as an input material to make other paper and cardboard products, even new cardboard pallets, in numerous cycles. Recycling them offsets the need for new raw material inputs (wood, paper) and therefore lowers the emissions associated with the production of new paper to make cardboard products. On the other hand, wooden pallets are often landfilled due to being too complex to recycle.

Corrugated cardboard pallet vs. Wooden pallet: Complete Life Cycle CO2e emissions

pallet lca study - full life cycle results

Combining the total CO2e emission by stage the total lifecycle emissions of the KraftPal pallet are 29,64 kg CO2e in comparison to the 33,91 kg CO2e of the wooden pallet. The table above clearly outlines that pallet use in transport contributes to more than 85% of all emissions.

Conclusion

The study concludes that the corrugated cardboard pallet from KraftPal is a clear winner against the wooden pallet when it comes to CO2e emissions produced through the whole product lifecycle by a great margin.

The KraftPal pallet beats the wooden pallet in all 3 stages of the lifecycle, whereas the major advantage is gained mainly during the production stage. The efficient production of corrugated cardboard pallets requires much less raw materials and natural resources, i.e. wood., and energy to produce. During the product use stage, due to being more than 80% lower in weight, the KraftPal pallet enables significant cargo weight reductions, resulting in less energy (fuel) required to move from point A to B which can also bring economic advantages for any company sending palletized goods. During the end of life stage, the clear advantage of the KraftPal pallet lays down in the multiple recyclability factor as opposed to landfilling for the wooden pallet, meanwhile, the CO2e emissions emitted during this stage don’t contribute to cumulative GHG emissions (negative emissions) in case of both pallet types. The two pallets performed almost identically by reducing the CO2e emissions per pallet at comparable weighted average levels even though the weight of disposed material is different (4,5 kg of cardboard vs. 21,82 kg of wood).

The final conclusion is that the KraftPal pallet is a better alternative to wooden pallets for any companies sending large quantities of palletized goods on mid-to-long distance trips, focusing on increasing the sustainability and minimizing the negative environmental impact of their products and business.

Download Full LCA Study

For comments, queries, and questions contact us at info@kraftpal.com

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