March-April 2020

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32 PalletCentral • March-April 2020 allocated to support this initiative, and it is expected to boost the global competitiveness of EU-based companies and generate new jobs, all within a sustainable model for economic growth. Even though it has taken more time for the circular economy concept to take-hold in North America, actions by the EU are triggering ripple-effects throughout global supply chains. In several sectors, including fashion and the built environment, what is happening in the EU with circular economy has been an important indicator of what North American industry members should expect in the next few years. This major shift towards a circular economy is of great benefit to the wood pallet industry, which has been actively engaging in circular value- retention practices for decades. Fortunately, the circular economy presents a new and motivating way to describe the relative environmental benefit that these practices create. The relatively durable nature of wood pallets can allow for many trips before any maintenance or repair is even required – unlike single-use products, the wood pallet and the system it exists within, enable the potential for multiple service-lives. This means cost-efficiency for companies; it also means material-efficiency for the environment, because every time a pallet is used for a 2nd, 3rd, or 20th trip, that effectively means we have avoided the need to manufacture a new one. We have avoided the energy, fuel, materials, emissions, and waste that are associated with the production of the new pallets that would otherwise have been required. If we apply the three principles of circular economy to wood pallets, the alignment is clear: Every time a wood pallet is repaired or refurbished, the pallet's useful life is extended, the industry finds efficiencies in cost, and negative environmental impacts are avoided (Keep products and materials in-use, for longer). Every time that a wood pallet is no longer viable for use and is ground up for mulch, that wood may be returned to replenish the biosphere, for example as landscaping material (Regenerate natural systems). The advanced systems and business models needed for circular economy -- aspects that other industries continue to struggle with -- are already foundational elements of the wood pallet industry.

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