Investigation into the Landfilling and Recovery of Wood and Wooden Pallets at U.S. Landfills in 2021

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Virginia Tech


Pallets represent a large part of the North American solid wood market, with an estimated demand of 1.9 billion pallets in 2024, and 3.1 billion pallets in stock in 2019(Freedonia, 2020). In 2021, 1.18 billion pallets were produced, 919 million were new pallets, and 280 million were repaired or remanufactured (Hobbs, 2024). When pallets reach their end of life, they are landfilled, or recovered by grinding them for mulch or fuel. The objectives of this study are to quantify the number of pallets that are landfilled or recovered, investigate historical trends regarding wood waste at Municipal Solid Waste and Construction and Demolition landfills and investigate alternate uses for pallets. This study was conducted by sending out paper and electronic questionnaires to active landfills in the continental U.S. The study found that 76.8 million pallets, 8.4% of new pallets in 2021, end up in a landfill but 4% of these pallets will be recovered to some useful product such as mulch and only 4.4% will be buried in the landfill. Landfills encourage the population to separate wood before they send material for landfilling, and they are doing this with lower tipping fees. Landfills indicated alternate uses for recovered pallets include alternate daily cover, to ship e-waste, used for road base, given to residents and chipped for mulch or fuel. The study found that 95-97% of wooden pallets produced in the U.S. are repaired for reused, used for repairing other pallets, or converted into value adding by-products.



Wood, Wooden Pallets, MSW, Landfill, Recovery