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What legal and non-legal requirements must my product comply with? | FURNTR
What legal and non-legal requirements must my product comply with?

When exporting to Europe you have to comply with the following legally binding requirements:

European Union Timber Regulation (EUTR): controlling the legal origin of timber

All timber imported into the European Union needs to come from verifiable legal sources.

European buyers that place timber or timber products on the market have to show due diligence. You can do this on the basis of long-term contracts, or separately for every container you ship. In addition the EUTR forces operators to trace their products back to the source. This means that when suppliers supply legal timber, but cannot provide well-documented guarantees of legality, they will not be able to supply the European Union market.

The easiest way to prove compliance is through a voluntary legality verification system or regular sustainable forest management certification (provided by the Forestry Stewardship Council, FSC).

The EUTR is part of the Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Action Plan. Another part of the plan is the Voluntary Partnership Agreements (VPAs). These are voluntary trade agreements between the European Union and timber exporting countries. If a given country is fully implementing its national control scheme, it receives a European FLEGT license, and all timber exported from that country is considered legal.

Note, however, that FLEGT does not prove sustainability, nor does it address deforestation; only legality.

At this moment, European buyers consider sustainability certification important, and EUTR essential. Consumers will only ask for more sustainable products in the future, when informed about the difference between “legal” and “sustainable”. Enforced sustainable forest management could be the next step after EUTR.  For now, the European Union is working on a stricter implementation of the EUTR.

Regardless of the delays in implementation in many countries, most large and professional buyers comply with the requirements in the EUTR, and are asking their suppliers to prove legal origin of timber. Compliance is especially common in North and West European Union countries where there is a strong commitment towards legality and sustainability. However in these regions (smaller) buyers can also be less pro-active and not yet fully compliant.

Check the EU-EFI website for the current status of your and competing countries.

Tips:

  • With the implementation of the EUTR the European Union is less than ever a market for incidental selling. In case you decide to keep selling to the European Union market keep in mind that legality assurance is an essential aspect of trade together with price and quality. More information is provided by the Guidance Document for the EUTR.
  • Read more about control on illegal timber and timber products in the EU Export Helpdesk.
  • The European Timber Trade Federation and EU FLEGT facility provides regular s about the status of the implementation of the EUTR. For establishing long-term business relations suppliers are advised not to wait for the EUTR and FLEGT systems to be fully up and running, but to be pro-active and ensure full transparency and legal sourcing and even take your own measures to this end if necessary.

Product safety

The European Union General Product Safety Directive applies to all consumer products. For finished products (for instance, furniture) or parts of a finished product, product specific legislation can apply to the final product depending on its final use. The General Product Safety Directive can therefore be complemented by harmonised safety requirements for specific products (for instance, outdoor furniture, cribs, cradles: see overview of the Safety Directive).

The obligation of complying will firstly be the responsibility of the European company that places the finished product on the market. However, they will often ask their suppliers to comply with the requirements. For suppliers of parts this can translate into demand for more information, test reports or compliance with standards.

Tip:

  • To get a better understanding of reasons behind the confiscations of products by European Union customs authorities refer to the EU’s Rapid Alert System database

Conformité Européenne (CE) marking for timber products used in construction

Timber or timber products that are permanently incorporated into construction works will have to be CE-marked: this applies to windows, doors, frames, industrial flooring and parquet, stairs, glued laminated timber, panels (plywood etcetera), cladding and structural timber.

This marking shows that the products comply with harmonised requirements regarding mechanical resistance, stability, fire safety, hygiene, health and the environment. Manufacturers of the above-mentioned construction products have had to provide a “Declaration of Performance” (DoP) since July 2013.

As it is not common for exporters from developing countries to supply finished timber construction products to the European Union, the CE requirement will probably not apply to you as a supplier of timber parts. But if you are a “component” supplier, you will have to provide your buyer with information on the basic properties of your product.

Tips:

CITES

In case you are supplying endangered timber species you will only be able to harvest and export them if they are on the list of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), and if you have obtained a CITES permit. With a CITES permit you automatically comply with the requirements of the European Union Timber Regulation (EUTR) and your timber is considered to be legally harvested.

Tip:

Chemicals in timber: REACH

The preservatives arsenic, creosotes and mercury are used to prevent rot, and improve the durability of timber, especially that used in outdoor applications. The European ‘Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH)’ regulation does not allow the use of these preservatives, with some exceptions, such as wood used in industrial installations, or as railway sleepers.

There are also restrictions for wood (for instance, doors, window frames, and floor parts) treated with certain oils, glue varnishes, and lacquers that may contain harmful substances. For example, painted articles shall not be placed on the market if the concentration of cadmium is equal to or greater than 0.1% by weight of the paint on the painted article.

There are also restrictions for the use of chemicals in processing. Buyers are increasingly implementing sustainable practices in their own company, but also their supply chain. Therefore, they can ask you to also comply with these requirements regarding the use of chemicals during processing and production (for instance,  volatile organic compounds (VOCs) used in coatings, formaldehyde and pentachlorophenol). The main guidelines for the timber sector are listed briefly below:

Painted and lacquered items such as furniture and toys may be a problem. Use of water-based products free from lead and mercury will avoid most problems. Wood products treated with creosotes are prohibited by the European Union.

The use and marketing of arsenic and all chromated copper compounds, including Chromated Copper Arsenate (CCA), Copper Chrome Boron (CCB) and Copper Chrome Fluoride (CCF), in wood preservatives are no longer allowed. Natural oils for garden furniture protection can be used in almost all cases. But still, check the of your oil on the European Chemical Agency (ECHA) website.

Tips:

  • Make sure to ask your buyers what their policies on chemicals are, and what they expect from you. Check the websites of the ECHA and the European Union to read more about REACH. ECHA also maintains an ECHA database where you can check the status of the chemical you use.
  • Guidance notes on creosote and arsenic can also be found on the Timber Trade Federation website.
  • Visit the European Union website on reduction of emissions and substitution of solvents to learn more about how to reduce VOCs.

Packaging and the use of the International Standards for Phytosanitary Measures 15 (ISPM) packaging logo

There is also non-product-specific legislation on packaging that applies to all goods marketed in the European Union.

All wooden packaging material (mostly pallets) you use must display the ISPM 15 logo, together with your unique identification number if you produce the packaging material yourself. If you do not produce the material yourself, you will need to buy it from a licensed producer in your country. Producers are licensed by the National Plant Protection Organisation (NPPO) in your country.

Licensed packaging material includes cases, boxes, crates, drums and similar packing, pallets, box pallets and other load boards, and pallet collars. All wood used in this material must be debarked and heat-treated (HT). This means applying a minimum wood core temperature of 56°C for a minimum of 30 minutes.

Kiln drying (KD), chemical pressure impregnation (CPI) or other treatments may be considered HT treatments, as long as they meet HT specifications. Alternatively, fumigation with methyl bromide (MB) at a minimum temperature of 10°C and a minimum exposure time of 24 hours, is also allowed.

Tip:

  • Contact the National Plant Protection Organisation (NPPO) in your country to find the addresses of licensed packaging producers.

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