Importers and exporters must be vigilant of the rules and regulations surrounding the types of goods they transport across borders. Every country sets standards and criteria for inventory to pass through customs. While this can be a challenge for shippers, the rules are enforced.
The International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) works with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United States (FAO) to prevent and control the spread of pests in plant products. Together, they created a standard called ISPM 15 to regulate and prevent infestation.
Since wood packaging materials are widely used to store and transport inventory internationally, shippers are bound by this legislation. Any solid or corrugated wood in pallets or storage materials used in international trade must meet the ISPM 15 criteria. Suitable materials are marked with an IPPC stamp, indicating that they are registered for regional, national, or international trade.
The International Standards For Phytosanitary Measures No. 15 (ISPM 15) outlines regulations designed to minimize the spread of diseases and pests from one country to another. While not an international law per se, many countries have agreed to adopt the regulations, including the United States, Australia, and the UK.
Pests and biological infections can spread through wood used in packaging materials, including pallets, crates, and dunnage. However, due to the extremely low risk of infestation, some manufactured wood, like plywood or particle board, are excluded from these regulations. These materials are typically manufactured using glue, heat, and pressure, making them less likely to transmit disease.
Full Mark Pallets
Any wooden pallet reserved for international distribution must be marked with an IPPC pallet stamp. Each stamp has four important labels, clearly displayed on two opposite sides of the storage unit. This ensures they are easy to identify by customs workers and regulatory authorities.
The IPPC lettering must be printed on every IPPC pallet, meaning it is registered for use in international transport. Alongside the letters, you’ll find the IPPC logo, which is a leaf symbol.
The next label is a two-letter geographic identifier. These letters show where the pallet was treated and prepared for use. For example, the country code for Switzerland is CH, UA is Ukraine, and the United States is US. The country code is followed by a hyphen and the producer or treatment provider code.
Producer or Treatment Provider Code
The producer or treatment provider code is a unique series of numbers allocated by the National Plant Protection Organizations (NPPOs) to the pallet manufacturer or wood treatment provider.
The final label is the treatment code, which is an abbreviation of the treatment method used on the pallet. There are four primary letter codes representing the applied treatment:
- HT: Heat treated
- MB: Methyl Bromide fumigation
- KD: Kiln Dried
- DB: Debarked
ISPM 15 Wood Treatment Requirements
ISPM 15 requires heat treatment for 30 minutes at 56 degrees Celsius for all wood-based packaging material. The shipper or shipping company can also fumigate the wood with Methyl Bromide.
The entity that applies the IPPC certification marking must be licensed and meet specific standards under ISPM 15. The wood must also be debarked before treatment. Debarking the wood prevents bugs or worms from re-infesting the wood.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) considers Methyl Bromide extremely toxic. Most countries, including the United States, stopped using Methyl Bromide on pallets in 2005.
Many countries today, including European Union members, prohibit the use of Methyl Bromide because it has been linked to Ozone depletion in the atmosphere. However, some Asian countries still use Methyl Bromide to fumigate pallets.
Reusing Treated Pallets
If a pallet remains intact and you do not remove any components, it can be reused for shipping. However, a certified IPPC fumigator or heat-treatment company must re-treat the wood if you need to repair it.
If a pallet has no IPPC markings, it likely hasn’t been treated. When shipping internationally, a country may not accept the pallet without markings. Sometimes customs may fumigate the pallet and charge the supplier a premium.
Ensure Your Shipments Meet International Requirements
At Shelving + Rack Systems, Inc., we offer alternatives to wooden pallets such as plastic, aluminum, steel, and galvanized steel. Our reusable plastic pallets and skids are made from high-density polyethylene and are easier to maintain and safer to handle than wooden pallets. Their serrated deck with drainage holes makes them ideal for food and pharmaceutical applications.
To discuss your pallet options for storing or transporting food, pharmaceuticals, or chemicals, contact Shelving + Rack Systems, Inc. at (800) 589-7225.