Fernando Costa is building a successful business on the old maxim that one man's trash is another man's treasure.

The proprietor of Island Pallet Solutions Ltd., a company that reuses, recycles and manufactures wooden shipping pallets, is scouring Vancouver Island for discarded and damaged pallets.

“When I go to the garbage dump in Courtenay, there are stacks and stacks of pallets. It's the same in the Nanaimo dump,” he says. Many businesses, such as grocery stores, have no use for the pallets once goods are delivered. The pallets are often thrown in the trash or stacked outside next to buildings, creating a fire hazard.

“Our biggest allies are the fire departments,” says Costa, who often receives calls from fire chiefs and company managers requesting him to pick up the tinder piles of dry wooden pallets.

Island Pallet Solutions takes the pallets to its facilities to be reused. Damaged pallets are repaired in its plant or disassembled. A machine pulls apart the boards, the nails are removed and the remaining pieces are trimmed on a saw. The wood is then reused to manufacture new pallets.

Business more than doubled in 2005, and he has plans to collect, repair and reuse the vast majority of discarded and damaged pallets, making him the veritable pallet “king” on Vancouver Island.

His business started modestly, but its growth has been anything but. In 2004, Costa, who owns a construction company, decided to purchase a small pallet recycling business in Victoria to keep his employees busy between building contracts. The profit margins in the pallet business are slim (a reused pallet sells for about four dollars) and so Costa considered merging his facility with Island Pallet, a company owned by a couple in Ladysmith.

With financing from Ecotrust Capital, he acquired Island Pallet and merged it with his Victoria operation, creating Island Pallet Solutions Ltd. in 2005. His pallet business more than doubled as a result.

Costa's used pallets are less than one-third the price of a new pallet, making them a bargain to Vancouver Island companies. On average, a pallet is good for six deliveries before being damaged and dumped. “Pallets end up in the landfill when they are usually beyond repair,” he says.

Besides creating jobs and cutting transportation costs for local companies, Island Pallet Solutions is minimizing the waste in our crowded landfills.
Costa is now looking into building an expanded facility and the possibility of using the wooden scraps from broken pallets to fuel a heating system and cogeneration, effectively reducing the company's waste to near zero.

“I'm always trying to come up with new ideas to save waste from ending up in landfills,” Costa says.