“American businesses send hundreds of millions of wooden pallets into landfills every year, spending a billion or so dollars in the process. About 40% of all hardwood harvested in the U.S. is for pallets, about two-thirds of which are used only once before being tossed out. A fourth of all wood in landfills is from used pallets.”
“Shipping Pallets, and Other Clean Technologies,” Joel Makower, WorldChanging.com, March 27, 2005
It’s a crazy pallet world, if you look for it. I grew up on a small farm in central Wisconsin, about four hours north-northwest of Chicago, about one kilometer west of Junction City, a small town with 300 residents. Ten years ago, as I was becoming more and more interested in the potential of timber pallets to be used as a building system, I started photographing pallets wherever I would see them, just to get a sense of their availability, whether in Chicago, in Mumbai, or in Junction City. I was shocked to find thousands of pallets within one kilometer of my family’s farmhouse — stacked outside on two farmsteads within walking distance of my parents’ farm, and even more setting around in Junction City, often next to the train tracks that gave the city its name. In a sense, most of these pallets, especially those on Farm 1, are setting in an above ground landfill site — maybe it should be called an airfill. Located on land owned by several generations of a family of long-haul truckers, these pallets have been damaged by the harsh Wisconsin winters and summers, and are of no use. Made of hardwood, they withstand the pressures of snow, freeze/thaw cycles, rain, humidity, and harsh sun, and of rodents, insects, and animals … to some extent … but in time, like each of us, they too will be gone.
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