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Thinking Ahead–Letter from Chaille: Putting Solid Numbers Behind an Incredible Story
Environmental Product Declaration campaign needs your help to quantify the sustainable advantages of wood pallets and packaging.

By Chaille Brindley
Date Posted: 2/4/2019

The wood pallet industry needs your help. If you want to set wood pallets apart from the competition, all it will take is a little time.

Currently, The Pallet Foundation is funding the development of a scientifically-sound Environmental Product Declaration (EPD), which will report a standardized environmental impact of a generalized wood pallet. A wood pallet EPD will also be the first of its kind in the supply chain, signifying to pallet users the extent of the industry’s dedication to environmental sustainability.

The bar to develop an EPD is very high. The first step is a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) survey that will provide data to develop a comprehensive EPD. In order to be successful, the survey needs to quantify environmental and energy costs for at least 20% of the annual production (by volume) in the country. And the only way to reach that lofty goal is for major pallet producers and recyclers as well as many mid-sized to small players to participate.

The industry needs your help? If you want to end the debate over which type of packaging is best for the environment, this tool once completed would go a long way in putting wood pallets way ahead in the discussion.

A comprehensive EPD is the best way for the wood pallet sector to tell its positive environmental story. Unlike a basic life cycle analysis, which tends to be easy to manipulate, a comprehensive EPD would set wood pallets apart, and would give the industry a marketing tool that no other packaging material is likely to match, because it is certified by a third party.

The wood pallet industry has known it has a great environmental story to share, and now it is time to scientifically show it. Wood is renewable, biodegradable, reusable, and recyclable. When it comes to energy and natural resource impact, wood wins too. So, how can we prove we are the best? That’s where a proper EPD makes all the difference.

 “I feel that in my gut we’ve always had the best product out there when it comes to the environment, but I never had a third-party verified tool to make the overwhelming argument,” said Bob Wenner, president of Pallet Service Corp. in Maple Grove, Minnesota and chairman of the Pallet Foundation. “The wood pallet EPD provides that opportunity.” 

The National Wooden Pallet & Container Association (NWPCA) and the Pallet Foundation have teamed up with experts from the United States Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) to collect the data and crunch the numbers. The Pallet Enterprise is also supporting this endeavor having recognized its importance to the future of the industry.

The information obtained in this process will be kept confidential and will only be seen on a company basis by researchers at the FPL. These third-party researchers guarantee strictest privacy of confidential data.

One good advantage of the EPD process is you will find out how your company compares to industry averages, and the survey can be a great tool to identify energy and other waste factors in your operation. If you want to get leaner and meaner, this process can help you locate parts of your operation that are underperforming.

The Pallet Foundation will develop a video tutorial to help train people in the process. You will be able to call on experts for help through the entire process to ensure the survey and data collection are done right. However, the process does require a careful analysis of your energy usage based on individual aspects of your plant.

Brad Gething, Ph.D, of the NWPCA explained, “We won’t sugar-coat things. Filling out this survey is going to take some time. We’ve done our best to streamline the process and provide guidance where possible.”

Questions will be concentrated on annual production for the year 2018. The requested data will include: production data, electricity usage, fuel consumption, material flows and environmental emissions. The researchers realize that you may not have all the information requested, especially when it comes to process specific data. They are asking that pallet companies provide estimates where specific measurements are not available.

So, what do you need to do? The survey data collection process will end the first quarter of 2019. To start the process, visit www.palletcentral.com/lcasurvey for more information on how to submit data.

Why should you do this? It will truly help the industry to stand alone on the issue of environmental stewardship and responsibility. Secondly, only participants will be able to quantify their standing in the industry and identify ways you can save costs. Third, this effort is expensive and would cost you thousands of dollars if you undertook it yourself. Now, you can participate and come up with the conclusions for free. All it takes is some of your management time.

If the future of the wood pallet and packaging sector     matters to you, consider taking the time to submit your information. This EPD will go a long way in quantifying a story that we already know is worth telling. Visit www.palletcentral.com/lcasurvey today to participate.

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