Is it safe to re-use old pallets?

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Pallets are durable, widespread items that can be re-used a great number of times. They are also good for use in creative home and DIY projects. However, there are still a few dangers with used pallets you should be aware of. Here are a few steps you can take to make sure your pallet is safe for re-use.

How does the pallet look?

If you want to re-use a pallet, the first thing to do is to make sure it’s clean. Pallets are used for shipping and packaging things ranging from edible fruits to toxic chemicals. If there are any large splash marks on it, such as oil spills, don’t use it. These marks could just be spilt fruit juice, but it’s safer to assume the worst.

Wood is also susceptible to bacteria and mould. Mould could be growing inside the wood and rotting the pallet. To check this, look for any signs of splitting (i.e. any areas where the wood is flaking off easily). If you find any, the wood is most definitely not suitable for re-use. It is also best to check the conditions in which the pallet has been stored. Pallets stacked or left in the outside are much more likely to have bug infestations or rot. Don’t re-use any pallets stored in this way.

Check the pallet code!

Pallets used for international shipping require an IPPC logo which certifies where the pallet originates and its treatment method. This logo shows plenty of different information, but the treatment code is the most important.

IPPC-Stamp

IPPC-Stamp © Wikipedia

The treatment code indicates the pallet treatment used to get rid of any organic organisms like bugs or bacteria before shipping. There are four different Treatment Codes:

HT – Heat treatment. This means that the pallet has been heated to a minimum core temperature of 56°C for 30 minutes, sufficient to kill any biological organisms. This form of treatment is safe.

DB – Debarked. This means that the pallet has been debarked under IPPC regulations. This form of treatment is safe.

MB – Mehtyl Bromide treated. This means that the pallet has been treated by Methyl Bromide fumigation. This form of treatment is NOT safe.

Methyl Bromide fumigation is a very toxic form of pallet treatment. Inhaled air contaminated with methyl bromides causes symptoms such as dizziness, convulsions, hallucinations, vomiting and many equally unpleasant symptoms. This form of fumigation has been banned in many countries such as the US, Canada and the UK since 2005, but there are still some in circulation today. If you see MB coded onto the side of a pallet, find a waste-removal company which can dispose of it.

What if it doesn’t have a code?

Not all used pallets will have a code. Pallets made for domestic use don’t need codes as they do not travel internationally. In this case the pallet doesn’t need any form of treatment, chemical or otherwise. It is likely these pallets will be safe to use, but beware. Since you can’t trace its origin, you cant guarantee it is safe to use. Just in case, it is safer to avoid these kinds of pallets altogether.

Anything else?

Avoid using painted pallets. The pool industry uses these pallets and so chemical treatment could have been used.

It may seem there is a lot of risks associated with used pallets, but the reality is the risk is low. We live in a global economy, so pallets have to be able to stand up to foreign government regulations. The main threat from re-using pallets is treatment with methyl bromide. Methyl Bromide treatment is illegal, therefore the vast majority of pallets are perfectly safe to use. There may still be some in circulation, but you are not likely to come across them.

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