Used Pallets vs Upcycling Pallets

Used Pallet Recycling Brief Origins

Used pallet recycling has become an exceedingly common practice among pallet manufacturers. However, that has not always been the case within the pallet industry. In the 1980s recycling used pallets was scarce among pallet manufacturers. Most companies manufactured all-new lumber pallets because their customers were demanding freshly built products. They stuck their noses up in the air at the suggestion of purchasing an already used pallet. After newly built pallets were used, they would accumulate in storage or outside a warehouse until anyone would offer to dispose them. Companies were thrilled when they would be removed from their property and they did not have to pay or charge for the service. They were thrilled someone would come and take their pallets away regardless of what happened to them. Anyone with a pickup truck and a trailer could become a pallet recycler and get as many pallets they would like for free.

Now, buying used recycled pallets is an established option for many pallet-using industries including food manufacturers, printing, personal healthcare products, industrial components, and beverage/bottlers. The biggest issue is typically the cost of a new pallet verses a recycled pallet. People are willing to buy used pallets because they are cheaper and equally strong as a new pallet. Used pallets even have some advantages of being dry, stronger and less likely to mold.

Used recycled pallets grew rapidly in the 1990's. The industry experienced a huge increase in demand as pallet manufacturers raced to acquire all the free pallets lurking around facilities. They would rapidly fix them, often replacing one or two boards, and reselling the used pallet for a much-discounted price compared to a new pallet. Since then used recycled pallets have continued to grow and be sold, shrinking the supply, and forcing customers to purchase new pallets as their only option. Introducing more new pallets to the market will always create more used pallets reducing the demand for the new pallets. The cycle continues to repeat itself.

Alternative Uses for Pallets  

Before used pallet recycling entered the arena pallets were often disposed of in several different ways. Some options included:

  • Grinding them into biomass, landscape mulch, or animal bedding.

  • Thrown into a landfill

  • Occasionally, used pallets were re-purposed into other products altogether like ladders for deer stands or platforms, tree houses, and backwoods hideouts.

  • Most pallet recycling companies will now dismantle a complete pallet and produce a re-manufactured pallet with all recycled components.

  • Whole pallets have been used to build several artistic items for parks such as pallet mazes and pallet climbing towers.

  • Sometimes they are dismantled into individual boards and find their way into homes as walls and floors.

Pallets have found themselves being used in a wide variety of artistic and practical products. There are even designs for houses built out of pallets in developing countries that are war-torn with masses of refugees. One hundred pallets can make a 16’ x 16’ house and be assembled in less than a week. Recently this practice has gone from a rarity to more common practice as do-it-yourself woodworkers, furniture makers and recycled art enthusiasts have begun making a wide variety of products out of old pallets – whatever people can imagine.

Trending: Upcycling       

Upcycling, the practice of turning old products into a new item when its usable life comes to an end, has recently exploded in popularity. More and more people are learning how to upcycle thanks to social media and websites such as YouTube and Pinterest. These resources have numerous projects as well as the basics of how to dismantle a pallet using handy tools for the safest lumber recovery.       

In the case of pallets, recycling often means modifying / repairing a pallet in some fashion but preserving it as a pallet. It often means converting scrap pallets and parts into wood fiber other useful products. On the other hand, upcycling typically is applied in such a way as to create a higher quality product of more value than its original purpose. This could be a good new business opportunity for pallet recyclers to produce value-added products or, at the very least, a new customer for waste pallet material.

One of the early products brought to my attention was low-cost wooden baby bed made out of dismantled pallets. Pallet companies have reported phone calls asking for whole Euro Pallets to make bed foundations.

Are there benefits of upcycling? Here are five to start out with.

Upcycling is great for the environment.

It is one of the best ways you can practice being green. There are several reasons why it improves our care for the environment. Upcycling helps accomplish less trash in all the waste streams as well as less water pollution and air pollution. Doing tasks like this means that the environmental awareness goes up and everyone will learn more about living green. This is a trend that is growing with each passing day. Even large corporations are beginning to appreciate this idea because it saves them a lot of money as well.

Upcycling helps make you money.

You can potentially earn a lot of money from trash if you know what you are doing. Get the waste for free or at a low cost and then use it to create products that are new and sell them for a profit.

Upcycling encourages a person’s creativity.

Work that encourages a lot of creativity brings joy, inspiration, and satisfaction. Don’t worry if you can’t think of something. Inspiration is all around you! You just need to remember that anything is possible and let your creativity take over. The internet also contains a limitless amount of ideas for an adventurous and upcoming upcycler.

Upcycling helps you keep other items that you really love.

People who have a problem keeping everything are known as hoarders. Upcycling helps to solve this problem by allowing you to take something that you don’t want to throw away and reuse it for something else that you can have a functional use for. This does not work with every item, but it does work with a lot.

Upcycling makes you your own boss.

Large businesses have taken onto this idea to help save them money as well as to make them more money. This does not mean that you can’t have a small business of your own that is green. It can give you the freedom of being a freelancer while working from home and earning money. Chances for this to happen are vast and ever-growing; more people should be aware of the good that comes from upcycling.


Pallets are one of the world’s most diversely capable products. We are only held back by our imaginations. Every up-cycled product you make, or buy is a good story because it is unique, creative and is made right in your own backyard or someone else’s garage. Your new adventure awaits you.