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January-February-2015

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ecycling old pallets into animal bedding is one of several popular uses of turning wood past its prime into a still sellable product. "We are finding uses for all of our wood waste," said Ralph Rupert, manager of unit load technology at Millwood, Inc. in Vienna, Ohio. "There is a wide variety of end users for old pallets and demand is strong." Millwood takes pallets and parts and recycles them into bedding and biofuel while nails, staples and other metals from pallets is converted into metal scrap. The company goal "is to create zero-landfill facilities." While sustainability has long been a hot topic in the wood pallet industry, turning pallets into animal bedding appears to be a growing niche. "Animal bedding is a growing market and farmers are increasingly looking for alternative bedding sources," said Wade Kohler, co-owner with his wife Susan, and chief executive officer of Pioneer Packaging in Portland, Indiana. At the same time, pallet companies are looking to take their used wood products to markets beyond fuel pellets and mulch. Pioneer Packaging can turn old pallets and other wood waste into 120,000 to 150,000 pounds of animal bedding a day, which accounts for about $1 million in annual sales for the company. Pioneer grinds its animal bedding for the cattle and poultry markets. The bedding for poultry is lighter and fluffier than it is for the bovines, Kohler added. The company uses a two-stage grinding system from another Midwest company, Rotochopper. "Recycling has been growing for more than 20 years as more and more companies see the sound financial sense of recycling," said Lars Bergan, regional sales manager at Rotochopper, Inc. in St. Martin, Minnesota. The company manufacturers industrial grinding equipment that turns waste materials into products such as animal bedding, mulch and biomass fuel, all popular uses of old pallets. "We are definitely seeing the animal bedding market growing, especially in the last five years and it has a lot to do with manufacturers trying to find something valuable to do with old pallet material," added Ryan Schams, a regional salesman at Rotochopper. "In the Midwest there is a lot of pressure on farmers to deal with environmental issues. Wood bedding is a great option for animals and handling liquid wastes." According to Rotochopper, wood bedding was once considered a lesser alternative to traditional bedding products such as wheat, straw or corn, and used only when those were in short supply. "Ground wood fiber is now winning favor with some farmers as a supplement or outright replacement for typical bedding sources because of its unique advantages," according to the company. "For instance, animal bedding produced with a wood grinder does not compact and bind together as firmly as shavings or sawdust will. The rounded and frayed texture of ground wood fiber maintains air space to limit binding, while maximizing absorbency." The animal bedding market, however, is not quite as simple as grinding all old wood pallets into one big pile of wood scraps. There are numerous concerns and regulations in the industry having to do with wood type, chain of command of the original product, state regulations as well as past uses of the pallets. "Most farms of any size need a supply chain that guarantees the purity of the product if the animal bedding is being used for 36 PalletCentral • January-February 2015 palletcentral.com MARKETS Old Wood, New Markets By Esme Neely Smith R

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