The plastic vs. wood pallet war may be headed to court in Texas, with the filing of a lawsuit over claims made by the largest U.S. wooden pallet industry group about harmful chemicals and contamination of butter in the Dallas area.
The lawsuit, filed in the District Court of Dallas County by Orlando, Fla.-based Intelligent Global Pooling Systems Co. LLC (iGPS), alleges that a Dec. 8 news release from the Arlington, Va.-based National Wooden Pallet and Container Association contained false and misleading statements about iGPS pallets.
Officials from iGPS and NWPCA did not return messages seeking comment. The association posted a statement on its website defending its claims.
NWCPA's original release cited recent research by the University of Texas School of Public Health in which high levels of polybrominated diphenyl ether flame retardants were found in butter purchased at five grocery stores in the Dallas area.
According to the release, iGPS commissioned a life-cycle analysis that revealed each of its pallets contains 3.4 pounds of the PBDE decabromodiphenyl ether (decaBDE); that iGPS and its business partner Schoeller Arca Systems NV would use 102 million pounds of decaBDE between 2008 and 2013; and that, on average, iGPS would use 20-40 percent annually of the Environmental Protection Agency's estimated total amount of decaBDE in the production of its pallets.
I'm not saying that plastic pallets are the source of the chemical contaminants in the butter, but I am encouraging further testing of food that is transported on these pallets, NWPCA President and CEO Bruce Schnolnick said in the release. This time of year, households around the country are baking butter-laden cookies and cakes. Are families eating flame-retardant-filled cupcakes? We should know.
The iGPS lawsuit alleges that the association's release constitutes deceptive marketing and is an attempt to harm iGPS' business by identifying by name several of its largest food-products customers, as well as to exaggerate the company's use of PBDEs in its products. The suit rejects the numbers given in the NWCPA release as false.
According to the complaint: The release does not (and cannot) state the iGPS plastic pellets were the cause of the purported butter contamination. In fact, the released does not ever state (nor can it) that the [Dallas] butter was shipped on an iGPS pallet. Unburdened by these facts, NWCPA nonetheless states in the release that iGPS' plastic pallets should be investigated as 'the root source' of the butter contamination.
The lawsuit seeks an injunction to stop NWCPA from making the claims or seeking to sway iGPS' customers from doing business with the company. IGPS also seeks unspecified damages.
On its website, the association called the lawsuit a distraction, from efforts to have zero tolerance for PDBE use in the U.S. food and pharmaceuticals industries.
[NWCPA] is comfortable that the data distributed in our recent news release is supportable and founded on credible sources of evidence, the statement said.
Freedonia Group Inc. of Cleveland predicts that U.S. demand for plastic pallets will grow 2.4 percent a year, to more than 130 million units in 2012. Wood pallets will grow 1 percent, to hit 1.5 billion.