The status of wood pallet disposal and recovery at united states landfills

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Virginia Tech

Each year a large number of wooden pallets are disposed of in US landfills, representing a significant portion of total wood usage. The purpose of this research was to gain an understanding of the numbers of pallets reaching landfills, specifically Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) and Construction & Demolition (C&D) landfills. Also, the research was conducted to determine what, if anything, was done with the pallets once they were received by landfills.Mail questionnaires were sent to every state licensed MSW and C&D landfill identified in the US, except Alaska. Alaska was omitted because it is known to have many small landfills each representing a single small village. It was thought that these small landfills could skew the results. The questionnaire mailed to the landfills was based on a questionnaire used in a Virginia Tech study of landfills in 1995. Only minor changes were made to the previously used questionnaire so that the data collected would be comparable to previous results.This study found that, on average, MSW landfills received 138,000 tons of waste and C&D landfills received 36,000 tons of waste in 1998. This amounted to a total of 239 million tons of waste at MSW facilities and 40 million tons of waste at C&D facilities. Average tipping fees at MSW and C&D landfills were $29.31 and $16.84 per ton, respectively. Pallets represented 2.8 percent of waste at MSW facilities and 3.3 percent of waste at C&D facilities. This amounts to 138 million pallets reaching MSW landfills and 40 million pallets reaching C&D landfills in 1998. Of these pallets reaching landfills 22 million were recovered from MSW landfills and 16 million were recovered from C&D landfills. Recovered pallets from both types of landfills were typically ground and used for mulch, animal bedding, compost or boiler fuel. Infrequently, pallets were used as-is. But this was infrequent. When pallet material was sold by MSW and C&D facilities, it received between ten and twenty dollars per ton depending on end use and region of the country.

landfills, Wood pallets, Wood