Estimates suggest less than 10% of the total of around 18 million pallets manufactured every year for the UK construction industry actually get reused. Thanks to industry-wide collaboration, however, efforts to tackle the pallet waste problem have received a major boost with the launch of The Pallet LOOP™ — the sector’s first ever circular economy, carbon net zero, pallet reuse scheme.
Founded by some of the biggest names in the UK pallet industry, The Pallet LOOP aims to transform the way building materials move throughout the construction industry supply chain. Delivering a leaner and greener, more sustainable pallet distribution model, the scheme is aligned with environmental targets set for the sector by UK Government, as well as the growing desire and need to adopt circular business practices.
The move has been championed by a group of leading construction industry players, with high-profile companies in the sector having signed a charter, acknowledging that change is required when it comes to pallet consumption and committing to a comprehensive evaluation of how The Pallet LOOP could be integrated within their business to help cut waste.
Signatories of the Pallet Loop Charter include: BAM Construct UK Ltd; Bradfords Building Supplies; BDL/Careys; FIS (The Finishes & Interiors Sector); Lovell, part of the Morgan Sindall Group; Meronden; Morgan Sindall Group; MKM; MSK; Platt & Reilly; SIG; and Willmott Dixon.
Timetabled for operational roll out in 2022, The Pallet LOOP is a joint venture between Paul and Ryan Lewis (formerly HLC Wood Products) and Scott Group – one of the UK’s leading pallet producers. Centred around the principles of ‘recover, repair and reuse’, The Pallet LOOP aims to eliminate avoidable pallet waste in the construction sector by incentivising pallet returns via a cost-effective, easy-to-use, deposit-based system.
Estimates suggest that up to 10% of the construction waste stream is pallets, which is costly from both a financial and an environmental perspective. Widespread adoption of The Pallet LOOP across the construction sector will greatly reduce the burden that pallet production places on the environment and our forests — cutting CO2 emissions by approximately 40% and timber usage by 75%.
To put these numbers into perspective, an estimated 6,000 acres of forestry are harvested every year to create construction industry pallets, with a further 236,000 acres grown to cater for future demand.
Green in principle and colour
At the heart of The Pallet LOOP is a range of distinctive, green, 100% FSC LOOP pallets, which are different by design. Manufactured with durability in mind, they carry an ISO14040-compliant LCA and are, on average, 100% stronger than existing alternatives.
LOOP pallets will be distributed to building materials manufacturers, for use in transporting products to builders’ merchants and, ultimately, construction sites nationwide.
Building material manufacturers will pay a deposit per pallet to The Pallet LOOP (along with a separate issue fee that the manufacturer absorbs in much the same way they do today with a packaging charge). As the pallets move through the supply chain, the deposit will pass from manufacturer to merchant, to end user.
Once materials reach their final destination, pallets can be stacked and stored ready for collection by The Pallet LOOP, which has a dedicated recovery infrastructure in place. Pallet collection is simple and users will be able to book a pick-up slot via phone, or online. Once a collection is booked, pallets will be picked up from as little as 72 hours later – reducing site clutter. Deposits are then repaid, in full, to the end-user.
Explaining how this makes logistics leaner and greener, Paul Lewis, Founder of The Pallet LOOP, said:
“At present, the vast majority of pallets circulating in the sector are designed for single use. The current industry specification for pallets works on the assumption that they will be scrapped or skipped once they reach their final destination. We’re turning this outdated, inefficient and linear practice on its head. In a step-change for the sector, we’ve developed a range of standardised pallets, engineered to last and to be used again and again.
“Adoption of The Pallet LOOP requires a shift in mindset from ‘deliver, distribute, discard’ to ‘recover, repair and reuse’ – but we’re confident the time is right and that the UK construction industry is ready to embrace this transformational shift towards a circular solution. This is evidenced by the number of companies that have stepped forward to welcome our launch, sign our charter, and investigate how The Pallet LOOP might work for them.”
Trials of The Pallet LOOP recovery service took place in October across the UK with a number of principal contractors. The Pallet LOOP is a member of both the UK Green Building Council (UKGBC) and the Builders Merchants Federation (BMF), plus it also has Construct Zero Business Champion status.
- More about The Pallet Loop and the Pallet Loop Charter;
- Follow the The Pallet Loop team on LinkedIn;
- Also on SustMeme, Circular economy strategies can cut global emissions by 39%;
- Also on SustMeme, AI-powered robot recycling plant for construction waste;
- Also on SustMeme, Carbon + circularity: ‘Future of Construction’ in The Times (2019);
- Also on SustMeme, Circularity: ‘Future of Construction’ in The Times (BAMB, 2018).
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