Research Projects and Publications

An environmental and economic evaluation of construction & demolition waste based wood-composite pallets and virgin wood pallets

Economics, Policy and Business

Author: Elizabeth Ellen Ernst
Year: 2019
Supervisors: Juliet Newson, Mika Horttanainen, Kaisa Grönman, Miia Liikanen


Construction and demolition waste (CDW) is one of the most voluminous waste streams generated in the European Union. By 2020, the goal of the Waste Framework Directive 200/98/EC is to have EU the member states recover 70% of the total waste volume. Looking for ways to utilize recovered CDW as feedstock for raw material is a critical method for achieving the EU waste targets. This thesis looks the possibility of using CDW to produce wood-plastic composite (WPC) pallets from and environmental and economic perspective and compares them to pallets made from virgin wood material.

A life cycle approach was used to evaluate the environmental impacts of both pallet systems. The global warming potential (GWP) was evaluated and the results found that for 1000 pallet trips the WPC pallet has a lower impact on the GWP. Economically, the cost/benefit of providing a WPC or wood pallet was evaluated from the perspective of a pallet pooling company. Three cost variables were taken into account; the cost of pallet acquisition, repair, and theft management. For 1000 pallet trips the WPC proved to be less costly for the pallet pooling company. The results were due largely to the number of pallets it takes to fulfill the functional unit of 1000 pallet trips; 12 wood pallets and 7 WPC. In every life cycle stage, other than the use phase, the wooden pallet had a lower environmental impact when counting biogenic carbon as a net emission of zero. Further research into pallet cost and LCA impact categories is recommended and encouraged.

Link to Publication