Wood Use Trends in the Pallet and Container Industry
Bejune, Jeffery J.
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This study was undertaken to determine the use and quantities of new and recovered wood materials utilized by the United States pallet and container industry in 1999. Wood use trends were identified by comparing the results of this study with that of three previous studies (1992, 1993, and 1995) conducted by Virginia Tech and the United States Forest Service. Also, information was gathered on firm employment, plant operations, and production. A mail survey of 3,507 manufacturers of wood pallets and/or containers in the United States was used to obtain primary data. It was found that the pallet and container industry consumed an estimated 6.54 billion board feet of solid wood in 1999, of which 4.41 billion was hardwood and 2.13 billion was softwood. It was further estimated that 3.7 billion board feet of the hardwood was purchased or processed as lumber and cants, and an additional 707 million board feet as hardwood parts. Approximately 51% of the hardwood consumed was a mixture of hardwood species. Oak accounted for 31% of the hardwood used by the industry. For softwood, an estimated 1.52 billion board feet was consumed in the form of lumber and cants, and another 610 million board feet as parts. Southern Pine (48% of the total softwood volume) and Spruce-Pine-Fir (25%) were the solid softwoods most commonly used by the pallet and container industry. Of the estimated 289 million square feet of wood panels that went into the production of pallets and containers, nearly 208 million square feet of it was softwood plywood, followed by oriented strand board (77 million square feet), and hardwood plywood (5 million square feet). The pallet and container industry produced approximately 429 million new pallets in 1999. Approximately 80% of these pallets were stringer type and 12% were block type. The pallet industry was responsible for the recovery of 299 million pallets in 1999. Furthermore, it was estimated that the pallet industry returned to service nearly 218 million pallets through either repair or recycle. Of the wood use trends identified, the most significant are the large increases in pallet recovery, repair, and recycling during the 1990s. The production of landscape mulch has become the leading use of ground or chipped pallets. A small increase was seen in new pallet production. Increases in new wood use were modest, and primarily limited to softwood parts and oriented strand board. The use of Southern Pine by the pallet and container industry continues to grow relative to other softwood species and in terms of total volume used.
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