Recycling wooden pallets for America Recycles Day

Yep, today is America Recycles Day, so if you spend any time at all in the green blogosphere, you’ll be seeing lots of recycling stories and tips. Much of that will focus on the typical household materials — paper, plastic, and aluminum — along with electronics (since e-waste has become such a huge issue).

My own browsing around this weekend brought me to another item that probably won’t get as much attention: the wooden shipping pallet. If you’ve spent any time at all around any kind of warehouse operation or shipping/receiving docks, you’ve seen these… and know they generally go straight in the dumpster. You may not know, though, that these humble items represent a massive waste of wood. Green Building Elements has some interesting numbers:

  • 40% — the amount of the US hardwood harvest that goes to making pallets.
  • 2/3 — the percentage of these pallets that get one use before disposal
  • 1/4 — the amount of wood in landfills that comes from shipping pallets.

Some creative ideas for recycling wooden pallets

Fortunately, many folks have looked at these items creatively, and seen all sorts of potential. Some of the things you can do with wooden shipping pallets:

  • Build a house: A tiny one, that is… Michael Janzen is not only tracking his own efforts to build a tiny house with shipping pallets online, but also publishing his plans for anyone else who’d like to do the same.
  • Build a planting box: Ready to start working on next Spring’s garden? Check out these plans for planting boxes made from pallets.
  • Build a compost bin: Another Winter project for the Spring garden — a massive compost bin.
  • Build furniture: Yep, you can use those pallets for indoor projects, too — check out these three plans for tables made from pallet wood.
  • Build a bike trailer: Need to haul items with your bike? Build a trailer

Just the tip of the iceberg here: both Lifehackery and WebEcoist have other ideas for upcycling pallets. Got your own project? Share it with us in the comments.


Image credit: House of Sims at Flickr under a Creative Commons license