Globally, two billion pallets are used every day for storing or transporting products from A to B. Meanwhile, many more pallets lie discarded and broken in warehouses and back docks, awaiting recycling or disposal.
A popular trend is to reuse or upcycle these disused pallets to make some wonderful DIY projects, such as coffee tables, raised garden beds, lounge chairs, and even staircases. Second-hand pallets give these projects a rustic, weathered, and one-of-a-kind look.
Pallets are usually available at an affordable price or for free, which makes them an even more attractive source of used timber for DIY projects. While this seems like a great way to create new from old and reduce waste, it’s important to be sure that these products are safe for reuse.
Here are some basic checks that should be made on any pallet before you get started:
- Look for the Treatment Stamp or “HT” Label on the Pallet
Pallets that are earmarked for international goods transportation must be specially treated to a standard to prevent the spread of pests, parasites, and bacteria between countries. The type of treatment used varies depending on which country has supplied them.
In Australia, the standard pallets must comply with ISPM 15, which uses two treatments like heat-treating or fumigation with methyl bromide. These treatment processes will be designated with either “HT” or “MB” stamp, respectively.
Heat-treated pallets are safe for reuse, but methyl bromide treatment is associated with human health problems. You should avoid using the latter for DIY projects.
If you come across pallets that have no stamp, they’re likely to be domestic pallets only and have not had any treatment. However, you still need to be careful and consider its history.
- Inspect the Pallet for Any Stains or Signs of Spillage
Regardless of which pallet you come across, you’ll need to look for any stains or signs of spillage. Pallets, especially brightly colored ones, are often used to transport hazardous chemicals, and you won’t necessarily know its full history regarding what it’s been used to transport.
If you see signs of any spills on the pallet, it would be best not to use it. It would be best to just keep looking for a clean one.
Don’t burn stained pallets either as this could potentially release toxic gasses.
- Practice Safe Handling and Inspection to Avoid Injuries
Note that wooden pallets are also used to transport food items or raw materials, and this can mean that harmful bacteria can be left behind. So, it’s wise to wear a mask when inspecting pallets to reduce your chances of breathing in any pollutants or particles of soil or dust.
When handling pallets, make sure you use sturdy gloves to avoid painful splinters or getting wounded.
Check that the wooden slats don’t have any fractures, cracks, or signs of splitting. Look for any nails that might be sticking out and pull these out with the back of a hammer, or knock them back into the wood. A nail injury can become infected and lead to serious illness.
- Ensure the Quality and Sturdiness of the Wood
Some pallets are made of cheaper materials while others are designed for durability and multiple uses. But regardless of how you’re going to use the recycled pallets, you should always consider the sturdiness and quality of the wood. Besides, you only want the best quality to use for your home renovation project.
Lastly, inspect the pallet for any signs of mold, water damage or rotting. Once wood rot begins, the strength of the wood will be irreparably compromised. Take note that this occurrence may not always be visible on the surface.
Choosing which pallet to use for your do-it-yourself or repurposing project is easy. However, guaranteeing the safety of the recycled material that you’re going to reuse should be your priority.
So before getting your hands on the pallet, make sure that you’re geared up with the right knowledge and information to ensure that it’s safe to reuse. Otherwise, you will only be wasting your time and effort in looking for the ideal and safe product to settle on.