Types Available



The majority of pallets are made from wood.

  • Lower cost than most other materials
  • Can be repaired/renovated
  • Can be painted and easily printed on
  • Stickers can be easily removed
  • Their popularity allows them to be used universally
  • The dimensions can vary slightly
  • Can be distorted through rough handling
  • Contain metal parts (nails) which could interfere with metal detection (some now are made without nails)
  • Need to be maintained
  • Can become contaminated with unwanted bacteria or pests. Export pallets need to be heat treated.
  • Weight can fluctuate due to wood variations and level of absorbed moisture
  • They can be prone to splintering or have loose nails
  • Wooden pallets are not fully washable
  • They cannot be nested in each other when empty


  • Precise and consistent specifications
  • Do not absorb humidity/liquid
  • Some can be moulded so that that can be nested when empty
  • No sharp edges, loose nails or splinters
  • Can be cleaned effectively
  • Very low maintenance required
  • Can be manufactured from recovered material
  • Can be lightweight (depending on density)
  • Long life if handled correctly
  • Washable and not prone to infection or infestation
  • High purchase cost
  • Cannot be repainted
  • Stickers may not be easily removed, leaving bug harbouring and unsightly residue
  • There are no universal standards, reducing the possibility of pooling and swapping


  • Lightweight
  • Low cost
  • Bespoke designs are possible within a limited budget
  • Can become unusable when wet or if damaged
  • Can’t be maintained nor washed
  • Can become contaminated with unwanted bacteria or pests
  • Weight can fluctuate due the level of absorbed moisture
  • There are no universal standards, reducing the possibility of pooling and swapping
  • Have a limited load bearing capacity


  • No loose splinter/nails
  • Long life if handled correctly – can withstand rough treatment
  • High load bearing capacity (depending on specification)
  • Washable and not prone to infection or infestation
  • Low maintenance requirement
  • Can be warped through mis-use
  • Heavy
  • Stickers may not be easily removed, leaving bug harbouring and unsightly residue
  • Very high purchase cost
  • There are no universal standards, reducing the possibility of pooling and swapping


Although pallets can come in all shapes and sizes, there are two main European sizes, 800mm x 1200mm (“Euro” in the UK) and 1000mm x 1200mm (“Standard” in the UK).

Two-Way Entry v Four-Way Entry

Most pallets are four-way entry, allowing the forks of a fork-lift or pallet truck to enter into any of the four sides to pick up (or lower) the load. However, some pallets will only allow entry from 2 opposite sides (usually the long sides).

Four-way entry allows more options when handling pallets which is particularly useful when space/access is limited. However, some operations will prefer limiting the entry to 2 sides. They may, for example, carry goods where lifting them the other way around may cause safety issues in the operation.

Pallet Operations

Dedicated Pool Operators

Most companies that use pallets belong to one or more pallet pools. This may be a managed pool or the general pool that exists informally between most users.

Managed pools may be discreet operations operated amongst a few members of a supply chain or may be a pool run by a dedicated pool operator. Chep, with its world famous blue pallets, is by far the most popular managed pallet pool operator in the UK, not to mention many other countries around the world. There are others though, such as LPR (red pallets).

Dedicated pool operators can offer a myriad of deals to suit the user’s needs. Generally, a low volume user would pay a much higher unit cost than a higher volume user. They have dedicated depots that are used to renovate and store pallets. They also use supermarket/large wholesalers’ regional distribution centres (RDCs) as de facto storage points.

White Pallet Pool

At a very rough estimate there are 90 million white (unpainted) pallets in circulation in the UK and 800 million in the EU.

White pallets can belong to just one company, or be part of a discreet pool. White pallet quality varies widely, from so called “one-way” expendable pallets, to the robust versions designed for several trips.

White pallets are seen by many users as freely swappable. This can be a grey area. Many, if not most, companies will swap “like for like”, i.e. a one-way trip will be swapped with other one-way trip pallets or simply not swapped at all (since, in theory they have no value). Higher quality pallets will be swapped with equally higher quality pallets. This is OK, but quality is in the eye of the beholder. Despite many guides that provide criteria for pallet quality, a judgement has to be made at the swapping point and the decision of what quality of empty pallet is to swapped back to the delivery vehicle is often a very subjective one and a decision made under pressure of time.

Anyway, who “owns” a white pallet at any given time? Is it the company who originally made it? Often, “property of xxxx” will be branded onto the pallet; this means nothing if the pallet has since been swapped.

The reality is that some companies are constantly feeding good new stock into the system and not getting them back. There is also a lot of theft in the industry.

However, there is much to be said for the white pallet system. It can be relatively cheap, pallets can be re-used and refurbished many times over and it requires minimal administration. Yes, there are rogues out there, but there are also many very respectable white pallet traders and manufacturers.