Tuesday, May 9, 2023

An Un-Pallet-able Undertaking


People with money have no time; people with time have no money. I fall into the latter category. Tanya is desperate to have a garden, so I am making raised garden beds by recycling pallets. Tearing them apart is a fool’s errand. My son said for $50 per hour, he would not tear apart pallets. If I had that kind of money, I would buy raised garden beds from Marketplace on Facebook.

Some 40+ years ago, I was part of a crew that helped my uncle tear apart an old grain annex for fir studs to build a house. The annex was built over 50 years prior with fir 2x6 spiked together on the flat. But we had tools. A 24” nail puller and 4’ clawbar didn’t make it easy but made it possible.

I have some tools here and am slowly accumulating more. The frustrating part is that every time I think I have that tool, I remember it is in my workshop at home in Ukraine. I managed to build one last week. It took all week. I also built a sand box for Lucky. I have learned a few things about tearing them apart. One is that the stringers (??) are often made of oak. How they got nails into them I have no idea but removing them without wrecking the thin boards that form the top of the pallet is almost impossible.

I built the first one 2’ high to keep Lucky out of it. Tanya said it was too high, so I cut one side down to 18 inches. It took 15 wheelbarrows of dirt to fill to the depth Tanya wanted. Lucky jumped in while she was planting it. The next ones are going to be 12” to 15” high.

I had planned on burning the scraps in our fire pit. Maybe not. Some of them contain Methyl Bromide which burning releases it as a gas. I have not seen any with MB burn-stamped on them so I may be safe. I guess the scraps will go into the recycle bin.

Lucky's sand box

He loves to hide toys and then dig them up

My first attempt at building in years, making it up as I went along

15 garden wheelbarrows of topsoil, manure mix and one of sand
 in the top layer. Tanya is planting onions

Starting to tear apart for another garden bed

Tanya finds me more ideas.

Some facts about wood pallets:

  • ·        Approximately 5 billion wooden pallets are manufactured globally each year. Nearly 2 billion wooden pallets are currently in circulation in the US.
  • ·         The food and beverage industry is the largest consumer of pallets.
  • ·         The average lifespan of a reusable wooden pallet is noted to be between 8 and 10 years.
  • ·        The US market size, measured by revenue, of the Wood Pallets & Skids Production industry was $14 billion in 2022.
  • ·         America produces about 500 million pallets a year. This consumes an estimated 50 percent of the country’s annual hardwood harvest and is equivalent to 7.6 billion board feet of lumber, worth about$6 billion in annual sales to the lumber industry.
  • ·         Every year in the US alone 1 million acres of our planet’s trees are destroyed to manufacture and produce the wooden pallets used to operate the distribution industry. To replenish 1 million acres of trees will take approximately 40 years.
  • ·         Pallets are routinely treated with Methyl Bromide to reduce insect infestations and rot. Because of methyl bromide’s harmful effects on the Earth’s Ozone layer, it will soon be banned through the UN’s Montreal protocol.
  • ·         54% of wood pallets are used for only one shipment, and then either stored, burned or thrown away.
  • ·         Wood dust is found in pallets and is a carcinogen associated with nasal and sinus cavity cancer, lung cancer and Hodgkin’s disease (cancer of the lymph system which creates your antibodies).
  • ·         Wooden pallets have become a major factor in the planet’s deforestation. Deforestation is one of the largest contributors to global warming and our earth’s sudden spike in temperatures.
  • ·         IKEA, the world’s largest provider of home furnishings, recently announced plans to phase out wooden pallets and replace them with recyclable paper pallets. Wooden pallets currently account for 50 percent of IKEA’s total global use of pine and spruce.


  1. Good commentary Al. Not sure how paper pallets will lessen significantly the consumption of wood based products?

    1. The paper pallets are made from recycled paper

  2. Sigh. So much waste. When will we learn (have we time to learn?) to look after our precious planet.
    That said, I admire your fortitude and totally understand Tanya needing a garden.

    1. Thanks, EC. Those billion pallets move trillions of dollars worth of product every year. We need to make them last longer or learn to recycle them better. If pallets can be made from recycled paper, can pallets be recycled to make paper?

  3. Where are you getting all these pallets? I hope they're free. Lucky's open sandbox will attract every cat in the neighbourhood!

    1. The pallets are free to be picked up. I had thought about the cats in the sand box. There is a black cat next door that Lucky would love to have come visit. He likes cats and small dogs

  4. That's a good use of pallets! But I have to chuckle at the photo of the wheeled 'garden bar'. I've NEVER seen a pallet that looks as good as that.

    The waste is staggering, and saddening. For a so-called 'intelligent' species, we're pretty stupid.

    1. I have a couple like that, really nice pallets. I'm going to build a garden storage cupboard on wheels for Tanya. A Garden bar is not so useful.
      We have to do a better job of recycling wood products. Some pallet companies are doing a better job than others.

  5. That is where Tanya gets her ideas

  6. I work at one of those big box do it yourself stores. We recycle lots of pallets. The cement and block companies get theirs back. We send all the other good ones back to our distribution center. They also use plastic ones, very tough, light and stack nicely.
    I don't know if it is still true but I think we used to pay a fee for the pallets from the cement and block companies and were credited back for returning them.
    The best and also heaviest, sturdiest ones are CHEP pallets. CHEP is the name of the company who makes them and they are always painted blue on the sides.
    Happy building and gardening to you.

    1. Hi, Judy. Thanks for finding me and commenting. When I was researching pallets for my post, I ran across CHEP. I have two of their pallets. Takes three men and a bulldog to lift one. Our local grocery store gets all their shipments on CHEP pallets and the guy I spoke with says they are killers to stack to send back. Renting or charging a fee certainly encourages pallet users to be more careful.
      I have two more boxes to fill with soil today and three more small ones and one large one to build. Tanya's plants are coming along nicely. May 20th is considered safe to transplant all seedlings in Saskatchewan.

    2. Love your description of handling the CHEP pallets and all the information you gave about pallets in general. I like the peek behind the scenes of what makes our world work.
      At first I was thinking you are behind on gardening and then I remembered where you live. Sending warm weather thoughts your way.

    3. Hi, Judy, digging into how things work is partly what I do for fun. We are past the Canadian May long weekend so gardens should start growing at top speed. Send some rain this way too please. We are dry.


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