Pallet repair surpasses new production for the first time

5 February 2020

Repair and reuse of wooden pallets has risen sharply for another successive year and now represents a greater volume of the market than new production, according to a joint report by the Timber Packaging & Pallet Confederation (TIMCON) and the Forestry Commission.

“The UK Wood Pallet & Packaging Market in 2018” report, estimated that a total of 46 million wooden pallets were inspected and repaired in the market during 2018, an increase of 3.6% on the previous year. With 44.9 million new pallets produced, the number of repairs surpassed production of new pallets for the first time ever.

Presenting the results, Guy Watt of John Clegg Consulting, who carried out the survey, said: “This is a striking trend, which could be a reflection of the increase in the cost of wood – so people are looking to repair rather than purchase new pallets – and secondly, it could be because there is now a recognition of the environmental benefits of recovering and repairing pallets.”

The increasing proportion and overall volume of new pallets being given some form of heat treatment was another of the survey’s notable trends. A total of 10.17 million new pallets were heat-treated, kiln-dried or both, by the TIMCON members who responded to the survey, an increase of 37.4% on the 7.4 million treated in 2017. The survey analysis estimates that 46% of all the pallets produced were treated.

This is likely to be an indication of the industry’s increased activity to prepare for Brexit and the fact that, after the transition period, UK/EU trade will require ISPM15 certification. Elsewhere in the survey, Brexit and the economy were by far the most-mentioned issues of concern to TIMCON’s membership.

The survey also estimates that the pallet and packaging industry is using an increasing amount of home-grown timber, increasing by 17.8% on 2017 to a total of 1.52 million m3 used during 2018.

“The latest report indicates the resilience of the industry, with a strong increase in the production of new pallets, said John Dye, TIMCON. “It also reflects both the changing emphasis on reuse and repair – which has now grown by 20% on 2015 – and our members’ positive response to their customers’ concerns about Brexit.

“This report gives us an essential insight into the size and defining characteristics of our industry and is a cornerstone to our discussions with government on issues from packaging waste to Brexit and ISPM15.

“We are grateful to the Forestry Commission for its continued support with this annual survey, to our members for providing the essential information and to Guy Watt of John Clegg Consulting for compiling it.”

TIMCON presented the results of the new survey to its members at a general meeting held in Manchester in January. The meeting also featured a presentation by French lobbyist Daniel Gueguén, who gave his assessment of Brexit, in which he highlighted the impossibility of making new trade deals while the UK is in the transition period ahead; and the need for the UK to choose between a meaningful trade deal either with the EU or the US.

David McKeon of Coillte and past president Gil Covey gave the meeting an update from the Irish and European industry, respectively.