Why Are Pallets Painted Blue? (Are they Safe or Toxic?)

The blue pallets have a reason for being, that the blue color is nothing more than a color used for the protection of open-pore wood, it protects the wood from rot, protects the integrity of the wood, and extends its service life.

In addition, this type of blue finish on pallets has the particularity that it is water-soluble.

This is ideal for pallets, which are usually in high-humidity environments or in direct contact with water.

This blue color on the pallets, apart from protecting the wood, also allows it to transpire and follow the natural expansions and contractions of the wood, thus maintaining its structure.

It is essential that the blue paint used for the pallets is open pore, as the wood from which the pallets are made is usually very porous.

In addition, painting pallets in a specific color, such as blue, usually indicates ownership or belonging to a specific pallet pool.

Pallet pools are systems in which reusable pallets are shared among multiple users. By using a particular color, a company can easily identify its pallets and differentiate them from those owned by other entities.

One of the most famous examples of a blue pallet is the CHEP pallet. CHEP (Commonwealth Handling Equipment Pool) is a company that provides pallet and container pooling services. Their signature blue pallets are widely recognized and are considered to be of high quality.

What are the pallet sizes?

The two types of pallets most commonly used today are the so-called European (1200x800mm) and American (1200x1000mm) pallets, named after the areas in which each is predominant.

Both dimensions are among the six standardized measures that the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) has established for the international handling of goods.

The rest of them are 1016×1219mm, 1165×1165mm, 1067×1067mm, and 1100×1100mm.

The popularity of blue pallets

The Australian company CHEP, which is a company that handles logistics in the distribution and collection of pallets, has popularized the use of blue pallets.

This company, based in Australia, but based in Europe, has a global reach and more than 400 million blue pallets distributed worldwide.

With such a massive amount of blue pallets distributed globally, CHEP’s blue pallets are easily recognizable, as, in addition to the blue color, they have the company’s logo on one side.

The popularity of European pallets

The most common pallet worldwide is the Euro pallet of the “European Pallet Association (EPAL), of which approx. 450-500 million pieces are currently in circulation.

EPAL pallets are the result of a European standard and are therefore particularly popular in Europe.  this pallet is not blue, It can carry up to 2000kg with even distribution (1000kg on one point) and is traded at current prices, depending on supply and demand as well as the condition and treatment of the pallet.

With its Euro pallets, EPAL represents the largest open exchange pool in the world.

Are EPAL pallets safe?

EPAL pallets of modern construction are quite safe, as they are constructed with treatments free of harmful chemicals, EPAL pallets protect the environment. Because they are made of wood, renewable raw material is used.

The fact that pallets are used in a reusable system saves resources, especially since they can also be repaired. And when they have served their purpose, they can be 100% recycled.

Why are pallets painted blue?

As we explained in brief at the beginning of this topic, painting pallets blue is a practical and efficient way to protect the integrity of the pallet from different external factors.

It should be noted that the wood used for pallets is generally not high-cost wood.

The wood most commonly used for pallets are softwoods: spruce, larch, Oregon pine, spruce, and pine. Hardwoods: birch, acacia, alder, maple, chestnut, poplar, ash, beech, elm, plane, and oak.

As this wood is subjected to heavy loads, direct contact with damp soil, sea transport, and insect attack, it is essential to treat it with chemicals for protection.

These blue pallets are mostly rented by the company, which is in charge of collecting and restoring them as well, so it is very important to keep them in good condition.

The blue color coding serves multiple purposes:

  1. Identification: The color makes it easier to quickly identify the owner or pool to which the pallet belongs.
  2. Quality Assurance: If the pallets are part of a managed system, like those provided by CHEP, the consistent color is a signal that the pallets are regularly inspected and maintained.
  3. Theft Deterrence: The recognizable color and often accompanying branding make it easier to trace the pallet back to its owner, which can discourage unauthorized use or retention.
  4. Standardization: In large supply chain operations, using uniformly colored pallets can make the logistical operations more streamlined and efficient.

How durable are blue pallets?

After prolonged use, blue pallets usually need to be repaired or replaced after 2-3 years. After this time they split quickly or absorb moisture and warp.

Blue wooden pallets are prone to splintering and can also change shape due to the absorption of liquid and depending on the load. Maintenance is therefore necessary.

Are blue pallets safe to burn?

Quality blue pallets such as CHEP are chemical-free and have a different treatment, so although it is not recommended to burn them, it would not be dangerous to do so.

But with blue pallets of unknown origin, you should act with great caution, it is very likely that they are treated with preservatives.

It is not advisable to burn the blue pallets of unknown origin, because potential treatment of its wood could emit toxic gases with the heat.

The blue pallets were not designed to be burned, so this action is not recommended because it could be harmful to health.

Moreover, not only blue pallets of doubtful quality, it is not recommended to burn any other type of wood containing paint or treated with chemicals.

Is the blue paint on pallets toxic?

Well, generally, the paint isn’t what you should be most concerned about. The real issue is that these blue pallets, like the CHEP ones, could be treated with various chemicals to make them last longer and resist pests.

So, it’s not so much the paint that’s the problem as it is the wood underneath.

That said, the paint itself is usually designed to be durable and adhere well to the wood, but it’s not necessarily formulated with the idea that someone might burn it.

When you burn painted or treated wood, you’re likely releasing all sorts of things you wouldn’t want to breathe in. Even if the paint isn’t specifically toxic, burning it is just not a good idea for that reason.

Are CHEP blue pallets chemically treated?

CHEP blue pallets are not chemically treated, IPPC requirements (International Plant Protection Convention) require that industrial pallets be made without any chemicals and from materials that are resistant and free of invasive pests and harmful plant diseases.

In their place, the pallet producers are now using a process where the pallets are heated to 140 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes.

Are heat-treated pallets really safe?

Heat-treated wooden pallets are made of wood with no extras. So it should be able to be used without hesitation.

Nevertheless, there is nothing wrong with exercising caution, as the pallets are often used several times. If you have received floor panels on such a wooden pallet, barrels with chemicals could also have been transported beforehand.

The pallets may have been in dirty containers and warehouses beforehand. Unfortunately, there are also counterfeit Euro pallets – these can often be recognized by the missing seal or by strange-looking seals.

It is therefore very possible that harmful substances have leaked or the pallets have been contaminated during storage.

If there are strange stains on the pallet, if they smell strange or if the seals look fake, you should stay away from them to be on the safe side.

Are blue pallets dangerous to use for furniture?

The use of the pallets is usually unproblematic because they are natural and have not been treated with wood preservatives.

The standardization and the price in particular, but also the rustic appearance of pallets, make them attractive for further use.

With industrial design, a style of its own has developed, for which the materials used in old factory buildings, such as wood, metal and brick, are characteristic.

Pallets stamped labeled with the letters DB are only chemical-free and safe to use. The newest pallets do not require this mark due to IPPC regulations, as the majority of contemporary wood processing requires ” debarking” as a part of the standard wood treatment process.

Nowadays pallets are considered safe, ecological, and renewable, and give a rustic and pleasant touch to building furniture.

Do pallets attract termites?

The pallets most likely to attract termites are those that are untreated and are also made of pine wood.

Another aspect to consider is if the pallets have been stored in places of poor sanitation, this can also cause the attraction of termites and other insects.

Why aren’t CHEP blue pallets being exchanged?

With Chep’s blue pallets, the exchange process at the ramp is completely eliminated, which is a considerable time saver according to the company’s own comments.

These processes are supposed to be more efficient and benefit customers in the current situation of driver and capacity shortages, as resources can be freed up and used for other purposes more quickly.

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