There is No Such Thing As “Wood Waste”

North Carolina to ban wood pallets in landfills on October 1, PalletOne offers solutions for proper disposal

BUTNER, NC – September 23, 2009 – Tony Fogleman hates to see anything wasted, especially wood.

“There’s no such thing as wood waste. I’ve built a business on that,” says Fogleman, regarded as one of North Carolina’s wood recycling pioneers.

Fogleman has been recycling, reengineering and reusing wood pallets since the mid 1980s, so he’s not a bit surprised that North Carolina will ban wood pallets from landfills beginning October 1.

“The way I see it, putting wood pallets in a landfill is like throwing away money,” says Fogleman, now a senior manager at PalletOne, a leading pallet manufacturer that bought out Fogleman’s recycling business and spread his ideas to the company’s 15 other locations in the Eastern United States.

Many local manufacturers see pallet recycling the same way. “Over the past five years, PalletOne has delivered recycling solutions to the state’s largest distributors and manufacturers ranging in savings from 5 to 15% of their annual spend,” says Matt Sheffield, Regional Manager for PalletOne.“Recycling programs that deliver savings for large companies in our market have become fairly common. We’re quite good at it, because we have developed our core supply over the years,” says Sheffield. “The new law will have a greater impact on the businesses that generate a small number of pallets on an irregular basis.”

Sheffield says his company is ready for the changeover, but he’s not sure about small businesses. “We’re already working with landfill operators to stage trailers at key locations to collect pallets,” says Sheffield. “But we’re also working to make it easier on small businesses to get their pallets collected.”

Sheffield suggests several options for business owners looking to dispose of their pallets in accordance with the new state ban. “First, assess the number of pallets you generate each month. If it’s a large number of pallets, call a pallet recycler to discuss setting up a collection and recycling program. We also have a plan to assist small businesses that gather small numbers of pallets monthly,” says Sheffield.

Key to their strategy for assisting the low volume businesses is maintaining and distributing lists of local “pallet jockeys,” a term used in the industry for a person who makes a living out of picking up pallets from small businesses and delivering them to local recyclers.

“We’ve also seen small generators working with other local businesses that generate excess pallets, consolidating their ‘wood waste’ to develop an ongoing group recycling program,” says Sheffield. If there is enough volume, we would consider staging a trailer and hauling the pallets away on a regular basis.”

Sheffield cautions that not all wooden pallets reenter the supply chain. But, even as scrap, the raw material has many other uses. “We grind wood scrap down for landscape mulch, animal bedding or sawdust that’s often used as renewable energy in boilers,” explains Sheffield.

“Actually, the life cycle of a wooden pallet is incredibly efficient,” adds Sheffield. “Pallet wood begins as a downfall product; they’re made from mill scrap deemed not worthy for home construction. We nail them up, run them through the supply chain, repair them and re-use them again and again. When it’s time, the wood is ground into another useful product that is later absorbed naturally back into the earth.”

“Wood is an outstanding raw material,” says Sheffield. “It’s renewable, sustainable, and inexpensive to repair and reuse. We’re glad to see the ban on wooden pallets in landfills, and we hope to see more states follow North Carolina’s lead.”



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