If you import or export goods on pallets and in shipping crates you’ve probably heard the term ISPM 15. But what exactly does the regulation require, and when does it apply? Find out with our simple guide…
What is ISPM 15?
ISPM 15 is an international regulation designed to prevent disease being spread between countries through the inadvertent transportation of insects and bacteria in packaging materials made from solid wood.
Intended to protect people and ecosystems from contamination and disease, it requires such materials to be debarked then heat or chemically treated with a pesticide prior to being used for transporting materials overseas.
ISPM stands for International Phytosanitary Measure. ISPM 15 was developed by the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC), and compliant packaging is stamped or branded with the organisation’s mark of compliance.
It primarily applies to wooden packaging moving to and from EU countries, although many other countries have also adopted the regulations.
When does ISPM 15 apply?
ISPM 15 applies to all solid wood packaging greater than 6mm thick that is used for importing to and exporting from countries overseas. This includes:
- Wooden packing cases
- Shipping crates
- Wooden boxes
- Wooden pallets
- Palletised boxes
- Pallet collars
- Load boards
- Loose wood used as void fill
It does not apply to processed, non-solid wood packaging, such as:
- Plywood packaging
- Wooden barrels used to transport wines and spirits
- Gift boxes made from processed wood
- Sawdust or shavings used for packing material
- Packaging made from raw wood 6mm thick or less
ISPM 15 explained
In order to comply with ISPM 15 regulations, solid wood packaging is either fumigated with methyl bromide (a type of pesticide), or heat treated by being placed in a specially designed plant or kiln which heats the wood to a specific temperature which is then maintained for a certain amount of time.
The advantage of heat treatment over chemical fumigation is that it eradicates insects and larvae in a way that leaves behind no potentially harmful chemicals that could be released during handling, reuse or remanufacture. It also significantly reduces the moisture content of the wood, reducing the risk of mould developing and improving durability and weather resistance.
Once a pallet, shipping crate or other solid wooden packaging has been heat treated to ISPM 15 standards businesses can confidently use it to transport products around the world for the lifetime of the pallet, without any further treatment required.
It is the responsibility of businesses to ensure that they – as well as any third-party packing service or freight forwarder they use – do not use solid wood packaging if it doesn’t meet the requirements of ISPM 15.
Solid wood packaging that does not comply with ISPM 15 regulations may be rejected or destroyed.
ISPM 15 for importing
Businesses importing goods in or on solid wood packaging materials that fail an inspection may be asked to pay for the repackaging or return of their goods, as well as the destruction, return or treatment of the packaging materials to ISPM 15 standards. In order to protect themselves, businesses should specify their requirement for ISPM 15 treated solid wood packaging in their contract with their exporter.
ISPM 15 for exporting
Businesses using wooden packaging to export goods should check the specific exportation standards for the country they are transporting to, including if they accept ISPM 15 standards.
ISPM 15 for reuse and returns
Undamaged ISPM 15 compliant wood packaging can be reused for transportation to other countries that accept the regulations. However, if the packaging has been repaired, remanufactured or changed in any way, it must be re-treated to maintain the standard.
ISPM 15: Beware of frauds!
Unfortunately, the process of heat-treating pallets, shipping crates and other wooden packaging can be costly, meaning there are always going to be people that try to cut corners.
Manufacturers have been fined in the past for placing stamps of ISPM 15 compliance on wooden pallets that did not comply with the regulations, which companies then bought, mistakenly believing they were purchasing legitimate pallets.
In order to ensure they are compliant, businesses can ask their packaging supplier for a certificate of proof of heat treatment.
ISPM 15 exemptions
Businesses can avoid their imports and exports being subject to ISPM 15 regulations by choosing alternative packaging solutions, shipping crates and pallets that are exempt from ISPM 15.
For example, as well as processed, non-solid-wood packaging, the rules do not apply to alternative packaging materials such as cardboard boxes, plastic and paper.
These alternative packaging materials also bring additional benefits for businesses that choose to use them. They are often more lightweight, safer to handle without the risk of getting splinters or catching clothing or skin on a nail, and are more hygienic. And advances in materials science mean there isn’t much these alternative materials can’t do, making the likes of paper pallets, cardboard shipping boxes and honeycomb paper layer boards genuine alternatives to their wooden packaging equivalents, capable of demonstrating impressive strength and durability.
Take the packaging materials we manufacture at PALLITE® Group, for example. The honeycomb design of our paper board gives a strength and rigidity which, combined with our innovative product design, results in pallets, shipping crates and layer boards strong enough to carry, stack and protect heavy loads during transit.
They are lighter than wood, helping to reduce fuel and freight costs for businesses that use them, and they are made from just recycled paper and PVA glue, making them safe for use in food environments and clean rooms, as well as able to be recycled at end of life.