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.
Comparative Analysis: Wooden Packaging vs. Alternative Materials
|Traditional Wooden Packaging
|ISPM 15 Exempt Alternatives
|Relatively low initial cost but higher maintenance and compliance costs
|Slightly higher initial cost but lower long-term expenses due to no treatment requirements
|Higher carbon footprint, requires treatment that may involve chemicals
|Lower carbon footprint, often made from recycled materials, fully recyclable
|Susceptible to moisture and pests, requires periodic treatment
|Highly durable, resistant to moisture and pests, no additional treatment needed
|Heavier, increasing transportation costs
|Lighter, reducing transportation and fuel costs
|Ease of Handling
|Risk of splinters, nails; requires careful handling
|Safer and easier to handle, no risk of injury from wood-specific hazards
Environmental Impact Assessment of ISPM 15 Exempt Materials
Sustainability: ISPM 15 exempt materials, such as cardboard and plastic, often come from recycled sources and are fully recyclable at the end of their life cycle. This promotes a circular economy and reduces waste in landfills.
Carbon Footprint: The production and recycling processes of these materials generally have a lower carbon footprint compared to the treatment processes for wooden packaging. This aligns with global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Recyclability: Most alternative materials to wood are 100% recyclable. This not only reduces waste but also conserves natural resources by limiting the need for new material production.
Understanding and adhering to ISPM 15 regulations is crucial for businesses involved in international trade using wooden packaging. These regulations, aimed at preventing the spread of diseases and pests, mandate specific treatment processes for solid wood materials. However, businesses seeking to streamline their operations and avoid the complexities of ISPM 15 compliance have viable alternatives.
PALLITE® Group offers innovative, sustainable, and ISPM 15 exempt packaging solutions like paper pallets, cardboard shipping boxes, and honeycomb paper layer boards. These alternatives are not only environmentally friendly and recyclable but also offer remarkable strength, durability, and cost-effectiveness. They reduce fuel and freight costs, enhance safety and hygiene, and are ideal for a variety of industrial applications. For businesses looking to optimise their shipping and handling processes while ensuring regulatory compliance, exploring PALLITE®’s range of alternative packaging solutions is a wise and forward-thinking choice.
Visit the PALLITE® Group website to discover how these innovative shipping solutions can support and enhance your business operations.
- What are the requirements for ISPM 15 pallets? ISPM 15 requires that all solid wood packaging materials, including pallets, that are used for international shipping and are thicker than 6mm must be either heat-treated or fumigated with methyl bromide. This treatment is necessary to prevent the spread of pests and diseases across international borders. The wood must also be debarked. Once treated, the packaging is marked with a compliance stamp, indicating that it meets ISPM 15 standards.
- Are shipping crates treated? Yes, shipping crates made of solid wood that are used for international transport must be treated if they are thicker than 6mm. This treatment can be either heat treatment or fumigation with methyl bromide, as per ISPM 15 regulations. The purpose of this treatment is to eliminate the risk of transporting harmful insects and diseases.
- Is plywood exempt from ISPM 15? Yes, plywood is exempt from ISPM 15 regulations. This is because plywood, along with other processed wood materials like particle board and oriented strand board, does not present the same risk of harbouring and transporting pests as solid wood. Therefore, plywood packaging does not need to undergo the heat treatment or fumigation required for solid wood packaging materials.
- What is the ISPM 15 rule? The ISPM 15 rule is an international standard for the treatment of solid wood packaging materials used in international trade. Developed by the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC), it aims to prevent the spread of pests and diseases through wood packaging. The rule mandates that all solid wood packaging material greater than 6mm in thickness must be debarked and then either heat-treated or fumigated with methyl bromide to kill pests before being used in international shipping. Compliant packaging is marked with a specific stamp that indicates its adherence to ISPM 15 standards.