November-December 2020

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38 PalletCentral • November-December 2020 Sanitized Wood Pallets I n the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, concern about pallet sanitation and cross- contamination briefly became a talking point during initial concerns about contact surfaces as a means of spreading the infection. While that conversation has somewhat faded, sanitation remains an ongoing item of interest for savvy shippers. According to the U.S. Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) Final Rule on Sanitary Transportation of Human and Animal Food, the design and maintenance of transportation equipment, including pallets, must "…ensure that it does not cause the food that it transports to become unsafe." As such, pallet users should ensure that pallets used for food shipments are clean, dry, and sound. Wood pallets compare favorably to pallets made from other materials. Recently released research undertaken by Institut für Holztechnologie in Dresden, on behalf of the European Pallet Association (EPAL) in Germany, compared the microbial properties of wood and plastic pallets. It found that bacteria had a lower survival rate on the wooden surface than on plastic. The wooden pallets are suitable for use in hygiene- sensitive areas, including food processing and transport. As stated in the report, wood has natural antibacterial properties that prevent microorganisms from spreading. It reported that wooden pallets have an antibacterial activity that is more than 13x higher than that of comparable plastic pallets. Consumer Behavior and Wood Pallets Consider that in April 2020, online retail sales grew by 120 percent, accounting for almost 10 percent of everything sold. COVID-19 has acted to change shopper behavior, with more people moving to online ordering and frequenting smaller footprint retail locations. Likewise, there has been a significant shift away from the food service sector to online and grocery retail as restaurants struggled with closures during the pandemic. Online shopping and the retail formats favored by customers could influence pallet selection in the future. Smaller pallets can provide easier handling in the narrow aisles of convenience stores and help speed up delivery. An increase in small format retailing would suggest a greater opportunity for smaller wooden pallets. However, a decrease in supermarket shopper traffic and more home delivery or curbside pick-up would suggest less demand for display pallets for floor and in-aisle placement. The influx of new technologies, such as automated micro-fulfillment systems at retail, increases the efficiency of ecommerce and will help Nature's Packaging® is a collaborative project of the National Wooden Pallet & Container Association, the Canadian Wood Pallet & Container Association, and the Western Pallet Association. Funded by the Pallet Foundation, the project delivers sound, fact-based materials on the environmental opportunities associated with wood packaging selection decisions. Wood packaging is the most recycled, most sustainable packaging product on the planet. Companies are well aware of their packaging options. Wood remains dominant because companies value wood's unique combination of durability, customization, cost efficiency, safety, and its unparalleled environmental attributes. Learn more at BLOG FROM NATURE'S PACKAGING COVID-19, Supply Chain Trends, and Pallet Selection — What's Important Now! The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted supply chains and consumer behaviors worldwide. It has heightened the awareness of sanitation and is accelerating shifts involving shopper format preference and palletized handling automation. Here are three changes to consider from the pallet usage perspective.

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