EUTR fine reminds about role of certification

21 March 2018

As TTJ went to press, the news came through of the first UK timber importer to be fined under the EU Timber Regulation (EUTR).

It was inevitable that this was going to happen at some stage, but the nature of the case is going to raise some interesting questions in the industry, not least because the West African hardwood batch in question was FSC-certified.

The timber in question was not illegally harvested material, but deficiencies were found in the importer’s due diligence system.

The importer has been quick to hold its hands up for its mistake, saying it had thought its own Due Diligence procedures had been sufficient, particularly as the batch had been FSC-certified. It has now adopted the TTF’s RPP Due Diligence Toolkit.

The case serves to remind that FSC certification is not an automatic green light for complying with the EUTR and the TTF is advising all its members to ensure that they carry out due diligence assessments on all their products, even those with certification.

This issue also represents TTJ’s first extended coverage on wood plastic composites (WPCs).

A few years ago we might have deliberated over whether to write a sector focus on WPCs. Plastic after all is one of timber’s arch enemies and competes against wood in a number of market, particularly doors and windows.

But things have crossed a threshold with WPCs – many of the major timber product distributors, quite a few merchants and many deck installation companies offer a WPC option.

WPC decking brands usually contain more than 50% wood flour derived from timber product processing waste, so there is forest-based content.

Growth is phenomenal and it seems to be driven by essentially people’s dislike for doing regular maintenance on their decking. If the WPC market, probably now around 10% of all new UK decking volumes, continues at its current growth rate then we could see the value of WPC decking sales overtake softwood within just a few years.

But like all growth markets everyone wants a piece of the cake and stories of variable product quality abound. Comparisons of how the plywood sector was a few years ago have been made.

As the market matures and buyers’ product understanding grows, the stronger brands with more robust quality controls should win through. But some form of industry guidelines and policing would definitely help the situation.

As we head through March the industry calendar is hitting overdrive with Ecobuild, the Timber Trade Federation annual dinner, TTF Softwood Conference, launch of the 2018 Wood Awards and an important Timcon general meeting focusing on the serious supply and pricing situation.