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Pallets are flat, square or rectangular structures that are used to hold goods during shipping and warehousing operations to make transportation and stacking easier. While some plastic and metal pallets are now produced, they’re traditionally and still most commonly made of wood, and the wooden kind is what we’ll focus on here. Why? Because they’re widely available and the wood in them is very useful for making inexpensive-but-durable furniture and other items. This economical and environmentally friendly re-purposing is already popular in a few countries and rapidly spreading worldwide.

If you’re interested in building something with recycled pallet wood, you’re going to need some pallets. The best place to find them depends on where you’re living, but don’t worry: almost anywhere you are, there are discarded pallets close by. (And if not, there’s always the internet – more on that below.)

Stores that sell furniture, appliances and hardware are a great place to start looking. Much of their stock is shipped on pallets, so they usually have plenty of extras available. The best time to go is early in the morning just after they’ve received their deliveries for the day. You’ll probably have your pick of pallets for free or at a nominal cost; otherwise, just ask store personnel to save you a few next time they get a shipment. They’ll probably be more than happy to have you take the unwanted pallets off their hands.

This can also work at your local grocery or pet supply store, whose canned goods are likely to be trucked in on pallets.

If you live in an area with a lot of manufacturing, you can look for pallets at the beginning of the supply chain instead of the end. Factories often hold periodic auctions to sell off obsolete or worn-out equipment, and most factories use pallets for moving materials and products around the plant.

Or maybe your city’s going through a construction boom. In that case, head down to a construction site (don’t forget your hardhat!) and ask whether they have any pallets they’d like to get rid of. You might not find such a good selection of pallets this way, but the ones you do find are likely to be strong, durable, and best of all, free.

If all else fails, look for pallet retailers on the internet. One advantage to this approach is that you’ll be able to choose from a wide variety of pallets and easily find some that meet your particular needs. Then you can simply place an order and wait for them to be delivered. Of course, you’ll end up paying a bit more this way, but you’ll find that prices and shipping rates are still surprisingly affordable.

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