Technical Advice

Materials

Some of the properties of plastic pallets are determined by the type of raw material used in their production, with different types of materials existing.

In Nortpalet we are convinced that the most expensive material is not always the most convenient one for all kind of applications, otherwise it is indispensable to find the one with the most efficient mechanic and economic performance to be qualified for a certain application. That’s why, according to quality requirements, it is possible to choose between many options and several materials.

  • ECO: A mix of recycled materials within the most economic range. These materials do not show the best performances, but fill their function at the best price. The use of these materials is very common for pallets of the Lightweight and Medium range. The colour usually is black or dark grey.
    • Mix PP/PE: Usually, the material used in the ECO range is Mix PP/PE (Polyolefin), which is a mix of low priced plastic materials economic that provides a very convenient price to the plastic pallet for those applications where high demands are not a requirement.
  • Regular: recycled material of standard quality. By default, this is the predetermined option of the pallets available on stock. The quality of the materials corresponds to the usual market quality for recycled materials; for this reason, this is the usually recommended option for plastic pallets. The colour usually is black or dark grey.
    • rPP: recycled polypropylene (rPP) is by default the option for all pallets in our catalogue due to the good characteristics of the material and its availability. Polypropylene is one of the plastics with lees weight and most common among the available options, making it the perfect material for plastic pallets. It is a material with the optimum balance between rigidity and resistance.
    • rHDPE: Recycled High Density Polypropylene (HDPE) is very similar to Polypropylene but with better performance against impacts, making it therefore more durable. However, a little bit of rigidity is lost and therefore flexion increased, as well as the final pallet weight due to its higher density. rHDPE is the recommended option for hostile environments as well as for very cold environments given its better performance at low temperatures.
  • Premium: Due to the customers’ requirements, sometimes materials of higher quality are needed. These materials can be new (virgin materials) or recycled ones coming from very specific applications and with much added value. The colour of these pallets can be chosen by the customer.
    • PP: Polypropylene is the recommended option for all our pallets thanks to the extraordinary rigidity – resistance to impacts ratio. Polypropylene is one of the plastics with lees weight and most common among the available options, making it the perfect material for plastic pallets.
    • HDPE: High Density Polypropylene (HDPE) is very similar to Polypropylene but with better performance against impacts, making it therefore more durable. However, a little bit of rigidity is lost and therefore flexion increased, as well as the final pallet weight due to its higher density. rHDPE is the recommended option for hostile environments as well as for very cold environments given its better performance at low temperatures.
    • rPP or rHDPE: In the Premium range, the possibility exists to use recycled materials which mainly come from the first recycling of certain plastic elements like boxes or containers and therefore have a very similar performance to pallets made with new materials. However, colours of the same batch or from different batches may vary.

Virgin materials thermoplastic polymers produced by petrochemical companies (generally multinational companies) which dominate the manufacturing chain of the necessary sub-raw materials necessary for production, like petroleum ethylene, etc. For this reason, this is a highly atomized market with few, very large and powerful players.

On the contrary, a recycled material is a thermoplastic polymer obtained from recycling certain plastic products originally manufactured with new or recycled materials. These materials are processed by recycling companies, usually much smaller than the petrochemical companies.

For manufacturing a virgin material, the manufacturer always uses the same formulation, with controlled elements; for this reason, the product is homogeneous over time and has a technical data sheet with certain established values and mechanical behaviour. This means that the manufacturer knows the elements of which the material is made. Likewise, the manufacturer has exhaustive quality controls to ensure product stability.

On the other side, a recycled material is generally made of the blend of different plastic pieces, produced with different grades of the same polymer. Therefore, recycled material is the result of a mix of polymers, with varying properties, because of different proportions of the materials being recycled. To control these variations and ensure that the properties comply with the pallet requirements,Nortpalet has an in-house plastic characterization lab allowing us establishing the necessary quality controls.

For this reason, the main difference between both materials is that virgin material has homogenous and known characteristics, while recycled material is heterogeneous and unknown. However, thanks to today´s existing recycling technology, handling recycled materials to achieve high quality results is possible.

The Food Use Certification is a property of the pallet coming from the materials used in its production. In order to obtain such certification, it is necessary for the manufacturer of said material to issue a document approved by a certifying body such as the US FDA accrediting said property. This certification consists of the guarantee that the material can be in direct contact with food for an indefinite period without this having any effect on said food. This certification is the one that has to fulfill for example a bottle that will contain water destined for its commercialization.

A priori, a pallet is an element of tertiary packaging that is in contact with the ground and which carries other types of packaging elements which in turn contain the products transported. Therefore, for most applications it is not essential that pallets comply with the Food Use Certification. However, certain applications such as "White Rooms" require this certification for which it is indispensable to use virgin (new) materials mainly due to the impossibility of a recycler to issue a certificate because he ignores the internal composition of the materials processed.

This does not mean that the recycled materials are not suitable for Food Use, but most of them (except in special cases) lack such certification. It is important to note that traditional wooden pallets do not have these certifications or equivalents.

Certain goods, especially on the food sector, are transported throughout the whole distribution chain, in frozen environments. In this kind of environments, the use of plastic pallets is of great interest, because they do not change their weight or size because of moisture, they are waterproof , odourless and can be washed

However, not all plastic materials are adequate for application at -20º C or less. At Nortpalet, we recommend the use of rHDPE (High Density Polyethylene) given its good performance to impacts in applications at very low temperatures. With the use of rHDPE the addition of no other product is needed to allow the durable use of the pallet in this kind of environments.