The National Wooden Pallet & Container Association engaged in a “vicious smear campaign,” claiming plastic alternatives posed health risks and conspiring to drive a plastic pallet company out of business, according to a recent lawsuit.

According to the lawsuit, filed by iGPS, Inc., a plastic pallet distributor, the NWPCA published a press release containing “false, misleading and defamatory statements” to create the impression iGPS pallets were linked to contaminated butter found in Texas.

“Unable to challenge iGPS’ superior plastic platform fairly and competitively, the NWPCA has resorted to false and misleading statements and unfair competition designed solely to frighten away the public and injure or destroy iGPS’ prospective business relationships,” according to the lawsuit, filed Dec. 10 in U.S. District Court of Dallas County, Dallas.

“NWPCA’s conduct has caused confusion among iGPS customers and has significantly damaged iGPS’ reputation, good will and future profits,” according to the court complaint. The lawsuit, available at, seeks unspecified damages.

The lawsuit marks the latest salvo in an escalating battle between plastic and wood pallet suppliers for dominance in the multibillion-dollar global shipping business. Traditionally, wood pallets were used for bulk shipments of fresh produce and many other goods.

In recent years, iGPS and other plastic pallet companies have expanded, saying their products are more durable and easier to clean than wood and are resistant to insect pests.

The lawsuit stems from a recent statement posted on the NWPCA’s website that called for an investigation of iGPS after a University of Texas study showed butter samples from five Dallas grocery stores had high levels of a flame retardant known as PBDE, a component of plastic 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,” Bruce Scholnick, president of Arlington, Va.-based NWPCA, said in the statement.

“This time of year households around the country are baking butter-laden cookies and cakes,” Scholnick said. “Are families eating flame retardant-filled cupcakes? We should know.”

Scholnick didn’t immediately respond to a message Dec. 16.

There are about 1.2 billion wood pallets in use in the U.S., according to the NWPCA, and the businesses that make, sell and repair the pallets generate about $5 billion revenue a year.