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Jim Coulson On The EUTR

Jim Coulson on the second year of the EUTR

IT is now over a year since the European Union Timber Regulation (EUTR) came into force; not just in the UK, but right across the entire EU. So I thought it was time to re-visit the regulation, and examine whether it has been accepted or ignored, and if it has caused people any problems.
Although it is EU legislation, it nevertheless reaches far beyond the boundaries of Europe: to all the places where wood and wood-based products come from, that then end up in an EU country.
And in the case of plywood, almost all of that comes from outside of the EU – Malaysia, Indonesia, China, and so on: so it is really important that the importers of such products make sure they are obeying these relatively new rules.
It is not simply a matter of ‘paying lip service’ to them, either – since the EUTR is a Regulation, it is a fully binding law which carries quite severe penalties for flouting it: including mandatory confiscation of all stocks, with the addition of fines and even possible imprisonment for the directors of ‘guilty’ companies. (So far, I have not heard of any prosecutions in the UK; but I do know that Trading Standards Officers are keeping a very close eye on certain sectors.)
And even if you don’t use Far Eastern or Chinese plywood in your business, you will still need to ask questions of your supplier – of whatever ‘wood-derived products’ (as they are called in the EU jargon) – as to whether they have satisfied the full requirements of the EUTR.
And even products made in Europe are still not immune from this law – so even if you are only using P5 Flooring Grade chipboard, you should still check that your supplier has done his ‘due diligence’ (ie, checking up) to make sure that the source material – the wood fibre – was legally obtained from the forests.
In my work in both the UK and in Europe, I hear all sorts of stories about log supplies; and it is a fact that even just the basic logs are getting more expensive and thus shorter in supply: so some companies are looking to the East of Europe to see whether they can save money.
And of course, with that comes an increased risk. For example, you have to ask yourself, how reliable are some of the countries of the former Soviet Union, when it comes to their paperwork and the ‘proof’ of proper, legal harvesting. So even if the chipboard (for example) was made in Romania (which is now part of the EU of course), it is very likely that some of the wood-chips may have come from further East, where corruption is still a part of everyday life.
Now I’m not saying that all Eastern European (or even all Far Eastern) wood-based products are illegal – not at all – but I am simply urging that you use caution, when buying stocks of the ‘cheaper’ material out there on the market.
You really should be asking your supplier (usually a merchant) if he has done his ‘due diligence’ checks – but also if his supplier in turn (perhaps the importer) has done his proper checking up as well.
And ‘due diligence’ is not simply a matter of getting a photocopy of a suspicious certificate: It is also a question of checking up on the trading history of the manufacturing company and asking where their raw material ultimately came from – and then comparing that original part of the supply chain with something called the Corruption Perceptions Index or CPI. This will tell you how likely it is that the certificates (which you may have been sent by email) can actually be trusted.
For more information on the EUTR and how it is working and being policed, plus lots of other stuff on Chain of Custody and some very helpful guidance on which timber species are likely to be trustworthy, I recommend that you have a look at my book – newly out this month – called Sustainable Use of Wood in Construction.
Wood is such a wonderful, environmentally-friendly material, that we owe it to the planet to use more and more of it. But we must use it wisely and – just as importantly – legally!
Jim Coulson is director of TFT Woodexperts, Ripon, North Yorkshire
T: 01765 601010

This article has been reproduced from the Contract Flooring Journal. You can find them at