Recycling elusive wooden pallets

Here's something most of us don't think much about: What happens to pallets, those open-slat, stackable platforms used to store and move much of this country's goods?

Who knows? That's what most of the nation's merchants, shippers, and manufacturers say. Pallets get scarce for no reason, break, wear out, and just get plain lost. And that loss figure represents a huge nationwide industrial expense. There are more than 2 billion pallets abroad in the United States, according to the National Wooden Pallet Association. At about $15 purchase price for each one, they are not only heavy in replacement cost, but use about 15 percent of the country's finished lumber.

Now, a California company has a service-and-conservation idea to better the industry -- leasing pallets. Already large West Coast companies like Chevron Chemical and Kaiser Aluminum have turned to the System That Work in Fairfax company to provide them with recycled pallets, which will be kept track of (no matter where they go) on this local company's computer network arrangement.

Formerly pallets were sold outright to be used on a one-time basis. The lease-and-recycle system will not only conserve lumber, a company spokesman said , but will provide a more balanced equipmen t inventory for its clients.

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