ASTM Standard Aims to Increase Pallet Reuse

Protocol calls for material-handling pallets to be marked with service life cycle.

Though many material-handling pallets are made from wood, they are usually used only once and not recycled. Not only does this create excessive waste, but certain pallets can present toxicity problems if disposed of in certain ways.

A subcommittee of the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM; West Conshohocken, PA) is addressing this problem with a new standard that may encourage pallet reuse and recycling.

The voluntary standard, ASTM D-6253, Standard Practice for Marking of Pallets, devised by subcommittee D10.26 on shipping containers and pallets, calls for the marking of material-handling pallets to indicate their intended service life cycle. The subcommittee is part of committee D-10 on packaging.

This standard, the subcommittee hopes, will clearly depict which pallets can be reused or recycled. If industry and government catch on, the standard may lead to increased use of reusable and recyclable pallets and to the purchase of repaired or reclaimed pallets.

Each pallet would be marked on a stringer, post, or optional service area. The marking would, at a minimum, consist of four points:


  • The name of the pallet manufacturer, pallet repair company, or owner identification code.


  • The industry or government specification followed to produce the pallet. Examples are MH1, MH18M, and P1660.


  • The month and year that the pallet was manufactured.


  • The pallet's intended service life cycle identification code. Codes include M for multiuse, L for limited use, and R for repaired.

One of the foremost concerns of the subcommittee, says chair Roger Young, commodity standardization specialist for policy, General Service Administration, Federal Supply Service (Arlington, VA), is the wood preservatives applied to many pallets that are shipped overseas. Many of the preservatives are clear and therefore not easily detectable. Some contain toxic chemicals. Pallets are often disposed of by being burned or turned into mulch, which exposes humans to the chemicals. If pallets are reused or recycled, that problem is eliminated, he says.

Because the goal is to cut down on waste, the subcommittee hopes that industry and government will purchase durable pallets that can be used many times. To facilitate this change, the subcommittee has produced four new standards that delineate the qualities of a pallet that is sufficiently durable. They are:


  • ASTM D-6251, Specification for Natural Wood-Cleated Panelboard Shipping Boxes.


  • ASTM D-6254, Specification for Wirebound Pallet-Type Wood Boxes.


  • ASTM D-6255, Specification for Steel or Aluminum Slotted Angle Crates.


  • ASTM D-6256, Specification for Wood-Cleated Shipping Boxes with Skidded, Load-Bearing Bases.

These new standards, according to the subcommittee, are to be used with ASTM D-6199, Practice for Quality of Wood Members of Containers and Pallets. If all of the standards are followed, removal costs could be eliminated and warehouse space increased. "Type-marking and repairing turn the pallet into a product instead of a waste problem," the subcommittee wrote in a press release.

Whether the standards will be widely adopted remains to be seen. While the markings will cost an extra 2 to 5 cents per pallet, reclaimed or repaired pallets cost about two-thirds less than new ones, which typically retail for between $12 and $20, Young says.

But, he says, the established procedure in industry and government is to buy new pallets, and that may be very hard to change.

For more information, contact Roger Young, General Service Administration, Federal Supply Service, 1941 Jefferson-Davis Hwy., Arlington, VA 22202; phone 703/305-6131; fax 703/305-6731; e-mail:

For D-10 meeting information, contact Tom O'Toole, ASTM; phone 610/ 832-9739; fax 610/832-9666; e-mail:

No votes yet