In the pharmaceutical industry, hygiene and sanitation is of utmost importance throughout the entire shipping operations process. All packaging and materials, shipping methods and routes must contribute to efforts to ensure that each individual product produced and shipped meets hygiene requirements.
From a logistics and operations perspective, organisations must have robust processes in place to minimise the risk of contamination. As pallets are involved in a significant amount of shipping, the type used is a key part of supply chain planning.
Plastic versus wood in pharmaceutical pallets
Both types of pallet inherently meet requirements, in that they enable the business involved to transfer a significant amount of goods from one location to another without individually transporting items. However, while that may suffice in some industries, in the pharmaceutical world, it comes down to which pallets are easiest to keep clean and contamination free. When it comes to hygiene, wood and plastic pallets have some key differences.
The challenges of working with wooden pallets
Wooden pallets provide a number of challenges when it comes to sanitation. Cleaning wooden pallets with water can lead to moisture retention, and eventually issues with mould or fungal growth.
Within the industry, a number of well-known bodies had to recall a number of their products in 2010 and 2011 due to health concerns originating from their choice of wooden pallet. The companies received reports from customers of sickness and diarrhoea as well as an unusual musty odour. The incident led to an investigation that found the breakdown of chemical used as a preservative and flame retardant may have been to blame, causing fungal growth in high moisture conditions.
Reportedly, at least one of the organisations involved made a move to plastic pallets.
Aside from concerns around mould and fungal growth, wooden pallets also present difficulties in terms of pest contamination, which can easily spread and affect the state of the product. Wooden pallets can break more easily and splinters can easily go unnoticed as they infect the shipment or injure handlers who in turn affect the legitimacy of the products.
Organisations using wooden pallets must ensure they have stringent health and safety procedures in place.
However, wooden pallets are often the cheapest type to buy in the first place and replace in due course, which is crucial for some organisations. In such cases, organisations using wooden pallets must ensure they have stringent health and safety procedures in place.
Why plastic pallets work well in the pharmaceutical industry
In terms of hygiene and cleanliness, plastic pallets show a clear advantage over their wooden counterparts. Plastic pallets are easy to clean with water or other liquid-based disinfectants and can be left to dry without risk of mould growth. Spills do not seep into plastic, and can be easily wiped away. There is also no risk of pest or dust contamination, and they do not easily break or splinter.
Initial purchasing costs are sometimes higher than wooden pallets, as are ongoing replacement costs. However, plastic pallets have a much longer shelf life than the wooden alternative, which generally only survive a handful of uses and as a result are sometimes used once without arrangements for return. Plastic pallets can last up to 10 years if properly cared for and be used for hundreds of shipments.
To improve the hygiene in your shipping process and ensure your operation maintains high standards, contact the team at Eco Pallets.