Environmental impact analysis of alternative pallet management systems

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Title: Environmental impact analysis of alternative pallet management systems
Author: Mazeika Bilbao, Ainoa
Abstract: Pallets, the most common unit-load platform, allow the transportation of goods in an efficient and reliable way. Every year, 700 million new pallets are manufactured and become part of the approximately 2 billion pallets that are in circulation in the U.S. The total life-cycle environmental impact of pallets depends on materials, manufacturing, handling processes, and the disposal practice (end-of-life). Plastic pallets can be lighter and might last longer but their manufacturing processes are energy intensive and could contribute significantly to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. On the other hand, wooden pallets can be cheaper and easily repaired but present a shorter life. The ability to control the end-of-life of the pallets and the associated environmental impacts of each scenario allows pallet pooling service companies to provide logistics arrangements that are attractive to those companies seeking to better manage their carbon footprint. The appropriate choice of pallet type (i.e. material, durability, etc.) and management structure (e.g. cost, lease vs. buy, etc.) may lead to a more sustainable logistics operation. The purpose of this study is to provide a model that would determine the impact of pallet materials, manufacturing, distribution, and take back operations on an environmental performance metric (such as carbon dioxide emissions) as well as cost. Mixed integer programming (a minimum cost multi-commodity network flow problem) is used to design the system that determines the mix of pallets (type, quantity, and pallet management system) for product distribution that balances overall environmental impacts and costs according to companies' needs. Such a tool would aid in decision making at the logistics and distribution levels. Results from a case study of a large grocery distributor/retailer in the Northeast is presented.
Record URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1850/13655
Date: 2011-04

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