Characterizing the Carbon Footprint of Wood Pallet Logistics

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Pallets are one of the basic building blocks of supply chains. Pallets are the most common unit-load platform used across the world and allow for efficient and seamless handling, storage, and transportation of goods. Every year, 500 million new pallets are manufactured and become part of the large pool (roughly 2 billion) of pallets that are in circulation in the United States. Wood remains the most common pallet material, accounting for more than 90 percent of the inventory and applications worldwide. As companies strive to become more sustainable, a thorough understanding of the environmental impacts of every aspect of their logistics operations becomes critical. Among the many factors affecting the life cycle of wood pallets are the pallet structural design, logistics management approach, and service environment conditions. This work is the result of a comprehensive 2-year study on the operations and practices that take place during a wood pallet life cycle. In this article, a prescribed approach for estimating the carbon footprint, or greenhouse gas emissions, that arise across all phases of a pallet life cycle, is presented. In addition, the impact of contributing materials, processes, and activities in each phase is quantified. The findings presented in this article provide a foundation to guide strategies on pallet design and returnable container network and policy design.


©Forest Products Society 2014

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Publication Title

Forest Products Journal

Published Citation

Carrano, Andres L., Brian K. Thorn, and Henry Woltag. "Characterizing the carbon footprint of wood pallet logistics." Forest Products Journal 64, no. 7-8 (2014): 232-241. doi:10.13073/FPJ-D-14-00011.



Peer Reviewed