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14 September 2023
Xella Netherlands switches to circular plastic pallets, saving 70 tons of CO2 annually

Xella Netherlands is taking a significant step towards sustainability by collaborating with the Circular Plastic Alliance, the building materials trade, contractors, and finishers. As the first construction producer in the Netherlands, Xella is replacing traditional wooden pallets with recycled plastic ones. These can be tracked anywhere via an RFID chip and can be reused time and again through a return system using blockchain technology.

According to a study by Hibin, the industry association of all building material traders in the Netherlands, the wooden pallet is the most common reusable primary raw material in construction waste. At the initiative meeting Circular Packaging organized by Hibin, Xella Netherlands presented a sustainable initiative to address this issue today. As the first major producer in construction, the company is replacing wooden pallets with recyclable plastic ones. The pallets are collected digitally from the construction site and reused. According to Ad Blokker, program manager at Hibin, this reduces the administrative burden of the building material trade. “This is profit, because our process doesn’t have to change, administration decreases, and the end result is much more sustainable.”

Not waiting for legislation
Research shows that Xella saves 70 tons of CO2 emissions annually by switching to plastic pallets. According to Jeroen van Heerwaarden, Commercial Director of Xella, the Vuren-based company is showcasing its commitment to sustainability. “We’re not waiting for legislation or other parties to figure out how to make progress. At Xella, we take our responsibility and lead the way in terms of sustainability and circularity. We consciously invest in, for instance, transparent packaging film with minimal printing, but now also in returnable pallets made of recyclable plastic.”

A thoroughly tested product
The production and complete logistics of these recyclable plastic pallets are managed by the Circular Plastic Alliance. The organization aims for a closed loop of sustainable packaging. For this purpose, they initiated various project groups consisting of companies sharing the same vision of business and sustainability. In one of them, Xella took the initiative two years ago to explore the feasibility of the plastic pallet. According to Johan Thans, Director of the Circular Plastic Alliance, this resulted in a plastic alternative to the traditional wooden packaging. “Together with Xella, we’ve run several pilot programs. Now we have a fully tested product that can easily withstand a load of 3,500 kg, be left outdoors, and endure construction site activities. We also have a unique logistical concept with return and quality control, ensuring that Xella continuously has high-quality pallets that can be reused.”

To prove the effectiveness of the pallets in practice, Xella is collaborating with some contractors in a series of pilot projects. This will be followed by a broader rollout in the market. Van Heerwaarden says, “We are convinced of the product and its positive impact. In the pilot we’re now conducting with the contractors and later with our finishers, we will demonstrate that construction processes don’t need to change, but that clear sustainable profit can be achieved. The stackable plastic pallets take up sixty percent less space, are one-third lighter in weight, last 3 to 5 times longer, and after their full life cycle, serve as raw material for a new pallet. We want to digitally demonstrate this with an improved sustainability score on our clients’ projects.”


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