Life cycle assessment comparison of wooden and plastic pallets in the grocery industry

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2020-01-01
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Anil, Sebastian
Ma, Junfeng
Kremer, Gül
Ray, Charles
Shahidi, Shirin
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Industrial and Manufacturing Systems Engineering
The Department of Industrial and Manufacturing Systems Engineering teaches the design, analysis, and improvement of the systems and processes in manufacturing, consulting, and service industries by application of the principles of engineering. The Department of General Engineering was formed in 1929. In 1956 its name changed to Department of Industrial Engineering. In 1989 its name changed to the Department of Industrial and Manufacturing Systems Engineering.
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Wooden and plastic pallets are used extensively in global trade to transport finished goods and products. This article compares the life cycle performance of treated wooden and plastic pallets through a detailed cradle‐to‐grave life cycle assessment (LCA), and conducts an analysis of the various phytosanitary treatments. The LCA investigates and evaluates the environmental impacts due to the resources consumed and emissions of the product throughout its life cycle. The environmental impacts of the pallets are compared on a one‐trip basis and a 100,000‐trips basis. Impact categories are chosen with respect to environmental concerns. The results show that on a one‐trip basis, wooden pallets with conventional and radio frequency (RF) heat treatment incur an overall carbon footprint of 71.8% and 80.3% lower, respectively, than plastic pallets during their life cycle; and in comparison with wooden pallets treated with methyl bromide fumigation, they incur 20% and 30% less overall carbon footprint. Theoretical calculations of the resource consumption and emissions of RF treatment of pallets suggest that dielectric technology may provide a lower‐carbon alternative to both current ISPM 15‐approved treatments and to plastic pallets. Methyl bromide fumigation (15.95 kg CO2 equivalent [eq.]) has a larger carbon footprint than conventional heat treatment (12.69 kg CO2 eq.) of pallets. For the 100,000‐trips basis, the differences are even more significant. The results recommend that wooden pallets are more environmentally friendly than plastic pallets, and conventional and RF heat treatment for wooden pallets is more sustainable than methyl bromide fumigation treatment.

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This is the peer-reviewed version of the following article: Anil, Sebastian K., Junfeng Ma, Gül E. Kremer, Charles David Ray, and Shirin M. Shahidi. "Life cycle assessment comparison of wooden and plastic pallets in the grocery industry." Journal of Industrial Ecology, which has been published in final form at DOI:10.1111/jiec.12974. This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Self-Archiving. Posted with permission.

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Wed Jan 01 00:00:00 UTC 2020
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