Whether it's Ytong and Silka blocks or Multipor insulation boards - all the products needed for the construction of buildings are transported in trucks, freight trains and airplanes - on pallets. Wooden or Euro pallets are the choice for this in most cases, but in terms of sustainability, these products also have some disadvantages; moreover, the pallet industry is currently experiencing a shortage of raw materials. Many arguments for looking at new and sustainable options.
Our goal of establishing a circular economy means, on the one hand, that we want to return our building materials to the production cycle. On the other hand, we also want to get by with minimal consumables. To this end, we are currently pursuing various approaches at Xella.
Successful return service
On the one hand, we can already point to some successes. In 2021, the pallet return service started in Poland. "In our 11 plants, Xella Polska uses about 1,500,000 pallets per year. Customers have an incentive to return pallets to us, and in 2021 we returned over 800,000 pallets, which we usually repair and reuse three to four times. With the rising cost of wood increasing, this is a great saving for our bottom line and as well as protecting a valuable resource for our planet," explains Aleksandra Kwapis, Local Head of Purchasing & Logistics at Xella Poland. The program has already been rolled out in Germany and France. In France alone, 67 percent of delivered wooden pallets could be reused in 2021.
"Return the pallet, save the planet"
Xella Serbia is also establishing a similar system with "Return the pallet, save the planet," in which construction managers and retailers return the delivered pallets to Xella. These flow back into the transport cycle and are prepared and used for the next delivery. This avoids waste and the need for new products - and thus dependence on raw material sources abroad - is reduced.
"Together with the concept "Return the pallet, save the planet", our foil in which our products are packaged is also fully biodegradable. With this step, the entire packaging of our products has become fully sustainable," says Stevan Đukić, Country Sales Manager of Xella Serbia.
Recyclable plastic pallets replace wooden pallets
Another approach is what Xella is doing as a member of the Circular Plastics Alliance in the Netherlands. As part of its membership, Xella is replacing the wooden pallets it previously used as a first step and switching to 100% recyclable plastic pallets.
The reason: plastic pallets are still little used, but they offer advantages over pallets made of wood or metal. They weigh less and are therefore easier to handle. They are easier to clean and they are about ten times more durable than wooden pallets, as they are much less exposed to the inevitable impacts that occur during handling.