The use of pallets in shipping is perhaps more widespread than you realize. Some 5 billion pallets are in daily use around the world, and approximately 90% of these pallets are made of wood. Any business that uses a pallet unit load may find themselves with an abundance of old or damaged wooden pallets. When a wooden pallet reaches the end of its service life, is it appropriate to burn it as firewood?
The pallet's lifespan ensures that its wood has had ample opportunity to dehydrate, so a wooden pallet is going to be extremely dry. Any fire ignited using pallet wood will run hot and fast, meaning appropriate pallet wood should be burned in combination with other woods. What is appropriate pallet wood? Some wooden pallets are suitable for burning, and others are not. So how exactly can you tell the difference?
Ideally, your pallet firewood comes from intact units. This allows you to inspect the pallet for relevant markings, most notably the letters MB. This stands for methyl bromide, which is a fumigant applied to some wooden shipping pallets in some countries. It's intended to act as a pesticide, eliminating parasites that may be present in the wood. It also renders the wood unsuitable for burning, as methyl bromide may be released in a toxic, gaseous form. Any pallets marked with the letters MB must not be used as firewood.
Paint and Other Stains
In some cases, a visual inspection of a pallet may be enough for you to see that it cannot be used as firewood. Any pallet marked with paint is unsuitable, as is any pallet conspicuously stained with grease or oil. In short, any compound that may gasify when ignited means the pallet can't be used as firewood.
Provided its wood passes basic safety checks, the pallet can be disassembled and combined with other types of wood to create potent firewood. Please be sure to remove all nails as these could damage the fireplace or wood-burning stove, and may pose a risk of injury when they become super-heated during incineration. However, all this effort to repurpose old pallets may ultimately feel counterproductive.
Although repurposing wooden pallets as firewood minimizes waste, you may eventually still find it too wasteful. If the nature of your business means that old and/or damaged wooden pallets keep stacking up, you may wish to transition to plastic pallets with a much longer service life.
Contact a local pallet company to learn more.