Ban on landfilling of wooden pallets in North Carolina: an assessment of recycling and industry capacity

  • Buehlmann U
  • Bumgardner M
  • Fluharty T
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Pallets literally move the world and an estimated 2 billion of them are in use in the U.S. every day. However, pallets have a short life span and thus consume vast quantities of resources. They are also responsible for 2-3% of all waste landfilled in the United States. This is despite the fact that technologies and markets exist that allow pallets to be reused, recycled, converted into other products or turned into mulch, boiler fuels or alcohols (ethanol). The State of North Carolina's legislature debated a ban on landfilling pallets for several years and has now enacted legislation to ban this practice beginning in 2009. This study provided information used to help reach that decision. North Carolina had 103 known pallet recycling operations that were surveyed in 2003-2004. Using 34 responses, the total pallet recycling capacity in North Carolina was close to 60 million units per year, while 34 million pallets were actually recycled in 2003. The average operation employed nearly 34 persons and recycled about 326,000 pallets per year. On average, 20% of the pallets received by a recycling operation were reused, 45% were refurbished, 19% were recycled, and 15% were ground. The industry generally thought that a ban on landfilling pallets was a good idea (56%) with 18% indicating it was a bad idea. Another 18% of respondents did not care and 9% had different ideas. © 2008 Elsevier Ltd.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Industry survey
  • Pallets
  • Public policy
  • Recycling
  • Recycling capacity

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  • Urs Buehlmann

  • Matthew Bumgardner

  • Tom Fluharty

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