Some people I know try to think of new uses for worn out or broken items before they discard them. Personally, I think this is a good idea, but I've also made some messes this way. For instance, we once made a place to sit outside and enjoy the yard. Instead of making a cement base or laying bricks, we used old pallets to make a low deck. It served its purpose for years and when I began to worry that it might be getting soft in a few places we piled the pallets in the alley. Finally, we must move those pallets to their final resting place, which would be the woodpile in the landfill.
A delay before getting to the landfill is another excellent part of recycling and those pallets might be too weak to use for a deck, but they could still serve a purpose. If one were to put the pallets on edge and fasten them to posts they would serve many years as fencing. A good coat of paint would brighten them up. However, we don't need a fence so off to the dump they go.
It's amazing how many uses one can find for used, wooden pallets. I did a search on the Internet and I was impressed with the ingenuity of so many people. The most common use for wooden pallets seemed to be for making compost units. I've done this myself and they work well for containing the composting material, plus they provide a wall if you want to hide most of the mess from your view.
Some of the other uses I ran across were as mattress supports where people piled their mattresses on top. The beauty of this trick was they could make the bed as high as they wished by stacking pallets. I would never do this, as it seems to be a waste of space for someone like me who likes to use the space under the bed for low storage bins.
People who are willing to take the pallets apart will find the wood is not usually of high quality. However, a patient person can salvage enough wood from pallets to build reasonable furniture and finish it beautifully as well.
I suppose the most impressive use of old pallets I saw was in building sheds of all types. One person claimed that his wood shed, made from salvaged pallets, was stronger than anything he could buy. He suggested adding plywood to the walls to make a garden shed, but I bet he could salvage some more pallets for siding if he wanted to spend the time.
I've pried a few pallets apart for the odd bit of wood. Most of the time the material breaks or cracks if you pry on it. However, if you take your time and remove the nails you can get the material for garden benches, tables, bird houses, dog houses, you name it
I used stacked pallets to hold a series of large pots and planted my garden in them. It was an easy way to garden and quick to put together. I put some recycled plastic over the pallets to keep the water from dripping on them, but I certainly didn't need to do that, as the pallets would last many years with no protection. It's a fast way to make a raised bed and with the addition of a planting box on the top and siding to cover the pallets it would be a nice addition to any yard.
The following is an Internet site showing many beautiful items made by a recycler using mostly pallets. http://greayer.com/studiog/?p=3775 It's titled "Ian's 100 Euro Recycled & Upcycled Patio Furniture Project"
The following is another Internet site showing a clever use of a pallet and some mortar. http://blog.makezine.com/archive/2008/11/diy_pallet_coffee_table.html I was surprised at the use of mortar, but have to admit it made the job quick compared to pulling nails and salvaging more materials.
If you have an Internet connection you might want to do a search for used pallets made into sheds. It's totally amazing and even inspiring to see how people have used discarded materials such as wooden pallets.