For five decades, wood has reigned as the material of choice for the humble shipping pallet, used for moving everything from Wheaties to washing machines. Now, Swedish retailer Ikea is replacing wooden pallets with a paper variant that’s lighter, thinner, and—the company says—cheaper to use. “We don’t know if the paper pallet will be the ultimate solution, but it’s better than wood,” says Jeanette Skjelmose, sustainability chief at Ikea’s supply-chain unit.
Ikea, which uses 10 million pallets to ship goods from suppliers to its 287 stores in 26 countries, will ditch wood worldwide by January, cutting transport costs by 10 percent. The new corrugated cardboard design can support loads of 750 kilograms (1,650 pounds), the same as timber, Skjelmose says. At two inches high, the paper pallets are one-third the height of wooden ones, and they’re 90 percent lighter, at 5.5 pounds. The svelte profile means Ikea can cram more goods into each shipment. The pallets, assembled onsite by most of Ikea’s 1,200 global suppliers, will be used only once before being recycled.