Pallet . . . it has to be close to an international word, as international as “container,” both neologisms spawned by advances in technology. The two revolutionized shipping. Pallets are everywhere.

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Check wherever there’s a loading or unloading dock, wherever stuff gets shipped. That means as close as your neighbor school or supermarket, and you’ll find pallets. Almost invisible while being used, bulk lifting fast would be impossible without them.

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For centuries docks were crowded with wooden barrels and a valued profession was coopering, but now, disposable pallets take their place, made of cheapest softwood that works. Check the cover picture of Seaport, great photos of Manhattan docks in the early years of the 20th century, and barrels dominate “bulk shipping.”

Today, pallets are broken up for kindling. Slats from a “used” pallet can be carved into walking sticks or used for any wood project. Imagine all the sticks, sleds, and even fine art from the number of pallets crossing the oceans at any one given moment.

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