While wooden pallets and wooden crates are typically used as a packaging solution when transporting goods, they may not meet international regulations when those goods cross country borders. Supply chain managers are faced with two options: make sure their wooden packaging complies with all regulations or use another packaging alternative.
International Standards for Phytosanitary Measures number 15 (ISPM-15) is a regulation geared towards wooden packaging. It stipulates that all wood with a thickness greater than 6 mm that is transported across borders must be debarked and then heat treated or fumigated with methyl bromide as well as stamped or branded with a mark of compliance.
It is necessary as wooden packaging can be easily contaminated by bacteria, such as e-coli and salmonella and inhabited with insects and pests. These bacteria can cause damage to the health of people who consume goods, such as food or medicine, that are stored in these crates and on these pallets, while insects and pests can spread diseases and negatively affect plants or ecosystems in other countries.
“Aside from the additional cost and inconvenience, making your wooden crates and pallets ISPM-15 compliant can have a few negative consequences. Heat treating wood can make it brittle and weak and fumigating wood with methyl bromide is also undesirable. Methyl bromide is a highly toxic, ozone depleting material that is corrosive to the skin and eyes and has an unpleasant mouldy odour. It cannot be used to treat pallets used to transport food and pharmaceuticals,” explains packaging company Kimmo director Jan Vreken.
A famous case demonstrating the adverse effects of methyl bromide involved US-based medicals products company McNeil Consumer Healthcare having to recall 60-million bottles of Tylenol and pay a $25-million settlement to the US Department of Justice. Methyl bromide used to treat the wooden pallets that transported and stored Tylenol contaminated the product. Users of the product complained about a musty odour, as well as mild cases of nausea, stomach pain and vomiting.
Further, to make wooden packaging ISPM-15 compliant is the risk. Once treated, wooden packaging needs to be transported with a phytosanitary certificate and stamped with the ISPM-15 mark of compliance. Goods can be quarantined if the certificate is missing, has expired, and if the stamp is illegible, missing or incorrect. Quarantine not only adds a significant cost to the shipment of goods, but the delay in the delivery of the goods can affect customers and damage a company’s image.
“It is far easier and risk free to choose a packaging solution that is exempt from ISPM-15; such as KimmoPallets and KimmoBins that are manufactured from honeycomb fibreboard technology. “The KimmoBin is essentially a fibreboard crate that provides a viable and cost-effective alternative to wooden crates while KimmoPallets are a strong and lightweight pallet option that is suited to air freight,” adds Vreken.
When choosing a packaging option for goods that will be shipped to another country, it is vital to make sure that it is ISPM-15 compliant or ISPM-15 exempt and to evaluate the cost and risk of ISPM-15 compliance against other packaging alternatives.