Reuse: From Used Pallets to DIY Projects

stack of wood pallets

Wood pallets — yes, the ones you can often find curbside or on online marketplaces for free — are trending as a furniture-building material. This is because pallets are cheap, accessible and an eco-friendly option for DIY projects.

Why Wood Pallets?

There are various environmental benefits to reusing and recycling wood pallets beyond just preventing them from entering our waste stream.

  1. Wood is one of the most renewable building materials we have — growing back quicker and requiring a lot less energy, carbon and water to extract than other raw materials.
  2. Reusing wood pallets as building materials can lower our consumption of less sustainable options. For example, every cubic meter of wood used for building materials releases 1.1 fewer tons of carbon dioxide compared to synthetic materials.
  3. It is easy to keep recycling the wood for mulch, paper or more pallets if parts have broken off, making them more eco-friendly than plastic pallets.

Choose A Project

There are so many creative pallet projects out there — ranging from porch swings and lounge chairs to shelves, bed bases, nightstands and whole accent walls! Instructables, YouTube and The Spruce all have great ideas to get you started on your own pallet project.

Find Used Pallets

Because pallets are used for shipping all sorts of goods, they are generally easy to find. There are about two billion pallets in use across the United States, with half a billion more pallets made every year. To find free pallets for your DIY projects, you can use Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, Freecycle or even ask local businesses or pallet recyclers.

Check that Pallets are Safe

Not all pallets are the same, however, and you may be bringing toxins into your home if you do not check the stamps or labels to learn what they were used for and how they were treated. As a general rule of thumb, try to avoid any pallets that are stained or give off an odor. Beware of pallets with “MB” stamped next to the IPPC logo — this means it was treated with methyl bromide, a chemical that is harmful to humans. Learn more about pallet labels here.

Now that you know where to find pallets and how to pick out safe ones, it’s time to get to the exciting part — starting your project! Be sure to follow all manufacturer safety guidelines while using tools, including wearing proper personal protective equipment.