An Introduction to Wood Packaging

Wood packaging has been used for centuries as a reliable means of transporting goods. Whether in the form of a wooden crate, pallet, base, or customized solution, wood packaging is a versatile and cost-effective solution for shipping and storing large, heavy, or fragile items. Its durability and product protection make it a popular choice across industries.

The wooden packaging market was valued at $3.53 billion in 2022 and is expected to be $5.58 billion by 2030, growing at a CAGR of 5.89% between 2023 to 2030. The growth is attributed to the cost-benefit of wood packaging compared to plastics. Also driving it is the need to reduce costs of the footprint in transport. The strength and stackability of pallets and wooden crates reduce the floor space needed. Proper space usage during the storage and transportation of goods can reduce costs by around 54%.

Benefits of Wood Packaging

It’s no surprise that wood packaging is expected to see growth as it offers many benefits in addition to cost-effectiveness. This strong, durable material can withstand rough transportation handling while protecting the goods. It is less likely to deform or fail during use, making it ideal for heavy and fragile items. In addition, sealed crates and boxes offer excellent protection against moisture or other elements it may encounter.

Wood packaging is highly customizable. It can be designed and manufactured to meet specific requirements such as size, shape, and configuration. They can be created for one-time use or to be fully reusable. Adding custom foam, bracing, and other customizations provides even greater design flexibility.

A top reason for using wood packaging is sustainability. Environmental protection is a priority for many, and wood is a renewable resource. Sustainable forestry ensures that new trees are planted as they are harvested. Additionally, wood packaging can be reused, repaired, and recycled. For example, when a pallet reaches the end of its useful lifespan, pallet recovery operations grind them for products such as mulch, animal bedding, or feedstock for biofuel. According to a survey of more than 1300 Municipal Solid Waste facilities in the U.S., nearly 63% operate wood recovery areas. The survey also uncovered that fewer pallets are going to landfills, and those that arrive are more likely to be recovered than in the past.

Wood Packaging Regulations

Untreated wood packaging coming from other countries has been the source of many wood-boring pests, such as the Asian longhorned beetle and the emerald ash bore, that have threatened living trees and forest ecosystems by destroying tens of millions of trees and costing the U.S. more than $1 billion to control.

To combat this, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has regulated wood packaging coming into the U.S. This rule states that all regulated wood packaging material (pallets, skids, pallet collars, containers, crating/crates, boxes, cases, bins, reels, drums, load boards, dunnage) must be appropriately treated and marked under an official program developed and overseen by the National Plant Protection Organization (NPPO) in the country of export. This does not include wood-derived products, such as plywood or particle board.

The U.S. and more than 85 other countries have adopted ISPM-15, International Standards for Phytosanitary Measures: Regulation of Wood Packaging Material in International Trade, a standard created by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization’s International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC). The standard describes phytosanitary measures that reduce the risk of introduction and spread of quarantine pests associated with the movement in international trade of wood packaging material made from raw wood. It includes fumigating or heat treatment of the wood as well as marking requirements. Some countries have additional requirements, so be sure to check the country’s guidelines before exporting products.

Types of Wood Packaging

Wooden packaging can be made from softwood, hardwood, plywood, laminated veneer lumber (LVL), or a combination. Common wood packaging types include bases, crates, boxes, pallets, and custom solutions.

  • Pallets – Pallets are a standard product used for transporting a variety of goods. They have gapped decking on top and bottom attached to stringers, which makes them very sturdy. A standard-size pallet built for forklift use is 40″ x48″, but they can be made in different sizes if needed.
  • Skids – Unlike pallets, skids do not have a standard size as they are specific to the product that sits on top of it. Skids have a deck top only (no bottom deck), and the stringers sit directly on the ground. Skids are built to last as they are often used as a permanent foundation for heavy machinery. The lack of bottom deck boards makes them less stable than a pallet for forklift use, and they are often pulled or pushed into position.
  • Bases – A base is similar to a skid but is built to be used with a crate. A base may be lighter than a skid because the top and sides of the crate will provide additional stability.
  • Boxes or cases – This type of wooden packaging has a top, bottom, and for sides. A box or case will be fully enclosed with no gaps, offering maximum protection.
  • Crates – Crates have four sides and may have a top, but they differ from boxes because they have slatted sides that leave the contents visible. They work well for bulky and heavy items but are not recommended for fragile items.
  • Custom Solutions – A custom solution is ideal when a standard solution isn’t feasible. Combining wood with corrugated, plastic, and foam allows the packaging to be designed to meet your specifications, whether for product protection, weight, size, ease of use/reuse, or a combination.

Wood Packaging

We’ve been creating custom packaging at WIC for five decades now. With our extensive expertise and innovative approach, we strive to reduce your total cost by learning about your product and its distribution environment to deliver a custom solution that meets your specific requirements. Contact us to get started on a packaging strategy that will elevate your product’s safety, provide efficient handling, and meet your unique goals.

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