The Timber Packaging & Pallet Confederation (TIMCON) has condemned remarks about wooden packaging made in the press by a supplier of plastic pallets.
The comments have been made by Jim Hardisty, managing director of Goplasticpallets, and sent to a number of print and online publications (including SHD Logistics) stating that wooden packaging materials “could be putting the health and safety of staff at serious risk and causing untold damage to the UK economy".
They are based on the content of a press release issued in August by workers’ union GMB that attempted to link the illness of a member of staff at online retailer Amazon to “insects carried in the packaging”.
Stuart Hex, general secretary of TIMCON, said: “These irresponsible comments are at best inaccurate; at worst they are deliberately designed to mislead. They are the latest in what appears to be an ongoing campaign of negative communications, created by the head of a single company that has a clear vested interest in causing damage to the wooden packaging and pallets business.
“The original statement made by GMB – and which Mr Hardisty is now referencing – was based on comments made by one worker at Amazon; these comments apparently remain unsubstantiated. GMB went on to cite a case of emerald ash borer in North America – which is an issue of great concern for the protection of forests; not, as they imply, harmful to human health and safety. There are in place significant international phytosanitary regulations to minimise the risk of pest infestation in packaging and these regulations are rigorously enforced in the UK by the Forestry Commission.
“On the subject of the protection of forests, the timber packaging and pallet industry is working closely and continually with plant health authorities across the world to protect the sustainable forests from where we source our raw material. GMB is clearly unaware of this work. We would be highly surprised if Mr Hardisty is
also unaware of it, because we have previously corrected similar inaccurate statements he has made in the media on several occasions.
“The GMB’s original comments have the potential to cause serious damage to a UK industry that employs 8,000 direct and 30,000 indirect UK jobs. We are extremely disappointed that GMB has chosen to issue them without consultation with the appropriate trade association. We will be contacting the organisation directly to ensure they do not make further inaccurate statements.
“Meanwhile, Mr Hardisty’s reckless follow-up has been reported widely and his comments are being seen and reported to us by our industry colleagues around the world. They have the potential to be hugely damaging to our industry.
“He implies that wooden pallets are less hygienic than plastic pallets; in fact, wood continues to be a living plant that has natural defences against microorganisms – whereas plastic does not. Research shows that microorganisms thrive more in crevices and surface abrasions, such as those small cuts and notches caused in
plastic as it is used. Mould is certainly not endemic to wood – it can also grow on plastic and other materials. Wooden pallets can simply be pressure washed, if and when they need cleaning.
“In addition to the debate about the hygiene, there are also long-standing question marks about the safety and potential risk to the environment of using plastic pallets. These include: do plastic pallets contain harmful deca-bromine or other fire-retardants?; are there still plastic pallets in circulation that contain high levels of un-environmentally friendly heavy metals such as cadmium?; and what is the carbon footprint of a plastic pallet - compared with a timber pallet that locks in carbon from the atmosphere?
“A plastic pallet is made from petrochemicals, a finite and dwindling resource. Compare this to a wooden pallet, which is made from a natural material harvested from renewable and sustainable forests; as well as being reusable, repairable, recyclable, and, at the end of its life, biodegradable.
“Plastic pallets are a more expensive option than wooden pallets, in terms of both the environment and the price itself. This is why wood remains the material of choice for more than 90% of pallets and packaging used around the world.”