Repurposing pallets and pallet wood to make furniture, guitars, garden fencing, art, and even houses has become quite a trend. Kamps too recycles and reuses pallets. We build recon pallets from older pallets, and we turn them into mulch when they can no longer be used. When you create things you intend to use or handle everyday in your home or garden, however, you need to know what you’re working with when reusing pallets and pallet material for your project.
Because most pallets are made of wood – which can house pests – the pallet industry has a responsibility to our customers and to our ecosystem to make sure these pests do not travel the same distance our pallets do. This is why various measures are taken to ensure the safety of their use, including bark-free regulation, heat treating, chemical treating, and kiln drying. Some of these treatments may have implications for the products crafters want to turn these pallets into.
When you select a pallet to use look it over for markings. If your wood pallet has no stamps or markings, this means it was made and used domestically. The majority of these pallets are not chemically treated, but it’s still much safer to investigate exactly where the pallet was made and how it was used if there’s a chance that anyone will be exposed to chemicals due to its repurposing. This is particularly true if it will be used in or near gardening soil or if people will be touching it a lot.
Pallets used to ship goods internationally often have stamps or markings. They should have the IPPC logo on them. If you have access to international pallets, but they do not have this logo, do not use them. There is no easy way to trace their provenance or their use. There are also several abbreviations that may be found. These are:
- HT – Heat Treated.
- MB – Methyl Bromide (chemical treatment)
- KD – Kiln Dried
- DB – Debarked
Heat treated, kiln dried, and debarked pallets should not be hazardous to anyone’s health, but chemically treated pallets should be avoided. Methyl Bromide is a poison, and it’s not worth taking a chance just for free pallet material. Painted pallets should also be avoided, particularly indoors. They may contain formaldehyde or other resins. Also when you work with pallets, use a mask or other face covering to make sure that you do not breathe in any particulate matter or pollutants.
If you are aware of the above guidelines and are careful about the pallet wood you select to work with, you should be able to safely and creatively utilize used pallets to your heart’s content.