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Pallets are among the most used returnable transport items (RTIs), and they are critical assets for a supply chain as they have significant environmental and economic impacts during their whole life cycle. Differently from other packaging products, pallets are specifically designed to be repeatably repaired and reinjected for use. While this environmentally is beneficial as it reduces waste, it can create complex interactions between the stakeholder-involved manufacturers, pallet providers, users and recyclers. Further, the number of different actors is usually high, and the flow of materials among them needs to be coordinated. In addition, different business models can be implemented (such as internal management versus outsourcing) as well as logistics alternatives (closed- versus open-loop). Thus, the aims of this study are first to propose a systematization of design and management decisions regarding the pallet supply chain; next, to review the state of the art models and tools adopted to support each decision process relying on an analysis of the archival literature published between 1978 and 2021 on pallet management, to summarize the main decision problems addressed by the different stakeholders involved in the pallet life cycle and the adopted methods, and, finally, to highlight potential existing research gaps. This effort helps to outline potential contributions towards more sustainable pallet supply chains and can support pallet operators and companies in evaluating solutions to increase the economic and environmental sustainability of their pallet management. Results show that the perspectives of the pallet provider and of the supply chain are the most widely addressed in the existing literature, while those of pallet manufacturers and repairers should be further analyzed.


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Tornese, Fabiana, Maria Grazia Gnoni, Brian K. Thorn, Andres L. Carrano, and Jennifer A. Pazour. “Management and Logistics of Returnable Transport Items: A Review Analysis on the Pallet Supply Chain.” Sustainability 13, no. 22 (November 18, 2021): 12747. doi:10.3390/su132212747.



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