Wood Pallet Sustainability Highlighted at FEFPEB Congress

FEFPEB meeting highlights central role for wooden pallets and packaging in circular economy

Delegates at the 67th congress of the European Federation of Wooden Pallet & Packaging Manufacturers (FEFPEB) heard how pallets and packaging made from wood are the perfect components of a circular economy.

In his welcoming address to the annual congress, held this year in Brussels, FEFPEB president Rob van Hoesel said wood stood apart from other raw materials as a truly renewable resource, making timber pallets and packaging a central part of sustainable business systems.

Patrice Chanrion

Patrice Chanrion

“Wood can be harvested now and in the far future from sustainably managed forests,” he said. “In the EU as a whole the stock of timber is still growing and most forests are sustainably managed under FSC or PEFC certification schemes. This simple fact makes a world of difference compared to other materials such as iron or plastics.” Together with the fact they can be easily reused, repaired and then recycled into other products or biomass fuel, this means “wooden pallets and packaging are the ultimate examples of circular thinking.”

Van Hoesel added that the industry had to highlight this to civil servants and politicians, many of whom have incorrectly adopted a negative view of wood as a result of campaigns by NGOs concerned about the depletion of tropical forests. “In Europe, we use softwood from sustainably managed forests – these raw material have no connection with the tragic deterioration of tropical forest areas,” he said.

The need for the industry to present its attributes correctly and clearly to the European Union was highlighted at the congress by lobbyist and author Daniel Guéguen, who spoke about the implications of the recent Brexit decision in the UK for the EU. Brexit, he believed, had come about due to a “lack of political vision” and rising bureaucracy within the European Parliament. The event has caused uncertainty but could present an opportunity to re-evaluate the EU for the benefit of business in Europe. He concluded by reminding the congress that business has traditionally been less successful at achieving change when lobbying the EU – and accordingly needs a well-considered approach.

A further European perspective was given to the congress by Flor Diaz Pulido of the European economy and MEP Jan Huitema, who highlighted the European Union’s growing emphasis on decreasing its ecological footprint, with concepts of efficiency, bio-economy, and the circular economy becoming more important. This trend, said Huitema, would increasingly affect the content of European legislation. As a result, the wooden pallet and packaging sector, which already has at its core recycling, reuse, and sustainability, was in a good position to benefit.

Patrice Chanrion of French national association Sypal furthered this theme in a presentation titled Wooden Pallets at the Heart of the Circular Economy. Here, he set out the sustainable advantages of wooden pallets in the context of the ‘seven pillars of the circular economy,’ reminding the industry it must be proactive and highlighting five action points to capitalize fully on its inherent advantages. Wooden pallet and packaging businesses must: act to secure supply of raw materials into the future; ensure long-term traceability; continue work to improve pallet quality; encourage innovation in areas such as pallet design and performance; and improve existing and explore new recycling options for wooden pallets and packaging.

Secretary General Fons Ceelaert updated the business session on FEFPEB’s recent activities, including continued work with the industry’s Global Forum, which will meet for the third time in Arizona in March 2017; liaison with DG Sanco on the ISPM 15 regime, which remains unchanged; European lobbying on phytosanitary, environmental and industry issues; FEFPEB’s new taskforces on alternative materials and circular economy and it’s Packaging from Nature PR campaign.

The congress was addressed by Anders Ek, chairman of the European Confederation of Woodworking Industries, CEI-Bois, which works in close collaboration with FEFPEB.

There were also presentations on the industry’s technological developments. Erik Piil (DK) and Christophe Mathé (France) of IMITEK gave a presentation on dielectric heating, illustrating how ISPM-15 accepted microwave technology can also help protect the wood against fungi, mold and bacteria; and stating that dielectric methods are approximately 0.335 euros per unit cheaper than conventional treatments. Gabriel Robert of French technological wood institute FCBA updated delegates about the use of infrared spectroscopy to verify the results of different heat treatments for compliance to ISPM 15 standards. Bert Wittevrongel of Italian machinery manufacturer Storti gave a presentation on the latest in robotics technology for pallet production lines.

The congress was sponsored by BASF Wolman, Cathild Industrie, Conlegno, Ecobloks, Eirebloc, EPAL, Euroblock, Lonza, Incomac, Pooling Partners, Friedrich Behrens AG (BeA), Imitek and Storti.