Pallets are becoming increasingly popular for arts and crafts as well as other projects. Here are some spots to start your search.
Small Local Shops or Facilities
It is usually hard to secure pallets from large pallet generators like supermarkets, big-box retailers, or manufacturing plants. Large businesses usually have pallet programs in place to reuse pallets internally, return them, or recycle them, and many will not let unannounced outsiders on site. With this in mind, you are better served to deal with small shops, schools, seniors residences, or other operations.
Ask Your Local Shopping Locations
Your local supermarkets and large building supply retailers may be your sweet spot. If you are looking for a specific type of pallet, and you are a valued customer, good things can happen. Many shop operators have pallets that they will happily give away if it is not too much of a hassle to segregate them for you—it never hurts to ask.
Go to a Distribution Center
Even if your local business contact can’t get you the pallets you need, perhaps they can arrange a referral further up the supply chain to their distribution center. Distribution centers often receive very good quality, but non-conforming pallets that are not compatible with their systems. When that happens, they may be willing to set them aside and make them available to you for pickup. However, never show up at the distribution center unannounced; make sure to get a referral first. Realistically, having a distribution center let you in to take oddball pallets can be a longshot, but it might be worth the effort.
If you can establish a relationship with the facility, you might lock into a large, enduring supply.
One thing in your favor is that as businesses increasingly seek to achieve Zero Landfill and other sustainability aspirations, pallet upcycling is a clear step up from landfilling or grinding.
Check Outside of Businesses
If you happen to notice empty pallets leaning against the back of a facility or at a construction site, site management or operators might be amenable to letting you have them, but be sure to ask. Do not assume that empty pallets are there for the taking. While it seems a reasonable assumption that pallets left outside and unprotected are not wanted, you might be wrong. Sometimes businesses store pallets outside because they don’t have room inside to keep them until they are picked up. Be aware that some states have pallet and container theft laws that might be applicable. If the pallet has an ownership stamp on it, such as CHEP, PECO, iGPS, Coca-Cola, U.S. Postal Service, or others, then it should not be removed. Such companies vigorously enforce the property rights to their pallets, and you may find yourself charged with unlawful possession of them.
Pay a Visit to Your Local Pallet Recycler or Manufacturer
Pallet recyclers often receive excellent quality but non-standard pallets that have little or no value to them, except possibly for dismantling or grinding. If you visit a recycler and explain the type of pallets you need, they may have non-conforming pallets available for free or for a reasonable charge.
The Bottom Line
Although the goal is to obtain free pallets, the reality is that buying a new wood pallet is not all that expensive. By the time you consider the cost of your search for old pallets, it might just turn out to be a more cost-effective solution to purchase pallets from a local pallet manufacturer. There may be pallets that are off-sized or with other defects that make them inexpensive and an excellent buy for crafting.