In response to the progress of the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government has issued guidelines regarding essential services and critical infrastructure. These designations are intended to help shape the policy decisions of state and municipal governments as they determine what businesses are needed to maintain normal work operations and which can safely suspend normal operations for the sake of quarantine. Under these guidelines, necessary items including food, medical supplies, and cleaning and sanitization products, are deemed essential for the successful management of a quarantine situation, and the businesses that produce and provide them have a duty to the public to maintain a normal work routine that keeps these items available. However, these essential goods need to be transported from their production facilities to stores, and the supply chain that moves those products relies on pallets.

Under normal operations prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, at least 93 percent of all goods shipped in the US were transported using wooden pallets, accounting for nearly 2 billion pallets in circulation on the average day. In the wake of the outbreak, demand for essential everyday items has only increased, and the need for pallets to move goods in response to that demand has increased with it.

Because of this, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has designated “Manufacturers and distributors (to include service centers and related operations) of packaging materials, pallets, crates, containers, and other supplies needed to support manufacturing, packaging, staging, and distribution operations” as critical infrastructure during the COVID-19 crisis. Shipping is the critical step between the production and the sale of essentials such as food, medicines, and sanitizers, and these goods are shipped using pallets, which makes the pallets themselves an essential component of the pandemic management response.

The designation of essential industries and services provided by the DHS is not a mandate or directive; rather, listing is intended as a set of advisory guidelines meant to help state and local authorities make determinations and issue directives in their handling of the crisis. The DHS recommendations are also intended to guide businesses that operate in critical industries in their decisions about how to ensure the safety of their workers while maintaining the availability of the essential products and services they provide.

In addition to pallets and other materials needed for the packing and shipping of vital goods, the DHS has also issued recommendations touching on other elements of the forest products industry. The production and distribution of timber and wood products is recognized as critical infrastructure under DHS guidelines.

It may not be immediately obvious how timber is an essential component of our response to a pandemic crisis – which is why, for example, the state of Pennsylvania did not initially include sawmills and loggers as essential businesses in its quarantine order. However, the need for wood products soon made itself known, prompting state officials to amend the order to allow these industries to maintain operation. The wood products that sawmills and loggers produce make a number of essential items possible, including wood chips used to produce fiber for filters, masks, and toilet paper, hardwood railroad ties for rail transportation, fuel pellets for heat and energy production, and of course, the hardwood lumber needed to manufacture pallets to transport critical supplies.

New York, Pennsylvania, and Ohio, three of the states in the region that supplies much of the country’s hardwood, have designated sawmills and loggers as essential operations. Conservation on these critical resources is as urgent as ever. Manufacturers and shippers are encouraged to use re-manufactured and recycled pallets whenever possible.

Maintaining the supply chain is essential to ensuring that the supplies needed to combat the current pandemic crisis arrive where they are needed. Pallets keep products moving and keep store shelves stocked, making them a vital component of the crisis response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Greenway Products & Services, LLC is one of the largest pallet remanufacturers and recyclers in the New York metropolitan area. We also accept scrap wood and landscaping debris from our customers that we turn into valuable resources. Greenway is a full-service pallet management company. Contact us for a quote today. Visit our website, or call us at 732-442-0200. We can deliver trailers to you on a moment’s notice throughout the Mid-Eastern area.