EPF supports the Single Market and calls for a suspension of new VOC requirements for panels in Germany

The Single Market is widely acknowledged as one of the greatest achievements of the European Union. It unites 28 countries and 500 million citizens, allowing goods to flow seamlessly within the territory. Common rules have allowed consumers to benefit greatly from scale, especially in the field of construction products. It is therefore with great concern that the European Wood-based Panel Federation (EPF) raises the alarm against the current threat to European harmonisation and progress posed by countries seeking to add new national rules on top of existing European regulations.

In May 2019, EPF called on regulators to support common standards for wood-based panels. EPF retains this level playing field position as a core principle of its members. Today, it resubmits this view, specifically regarding new VOC (Volatile Organic Compound) requirements being introduced in Germany. These are about to be imposed by certain Federal States as of 1 October 2019, in conflict with the harmonised rules of the European Construction Products Regulation (CPR), of CE marking, and in spite of the fact that the European notification is still ongoing (standstill date 27 December 2019).

Germany’s proposed Model Administrative Rules on Technical Building Regulations (MVVTB) version 2019/1 seeks to require manufacturers and sellers of panels to meet new national requirements. A Member State adding new demands, on top of those currently allowed, infringes CPR. This argument was upheld by the European Court of Justice in April. In addition, multiple new court cases are now underway against MVVTB in Germany, and one Federal State, Baden-Württemberg has already ruled the new VOC requirements to be illegal, as there is no proven need for them.

In the light of MMVTB 2019/1 being both potentially illegal and certainly detrimental to the Single Market, EPF urges:

  • Germany’s Federal States to immediately suspend any action to introduce the VOC requirements for panels expressed in MVVTB 2019/1 into their own state building codes;
  • The European Commission to accelerate the finalisation of a Delegated Act (already in process in DG GROW), to harmonise the classification of VOC performance in construction products.

Europe’s panel producers stand resolutely behind a harmonised set of European rules, and firmly against the fragmentation of Europe’s Single Market driven by solo actions of Member States, such as the current one. EPF calls for these urgent actions for the welfare of Europe’s half a billion citizens.

Ursula von der Leyen’s new Commission

  • Ursula von der Leyen’s new Commission

The incoming Commission President Ursula von der Leyen unveiled the portfolio allocations for the new college of European Commissioners last week. The appointments are still subject to confirmation by the European Parliament, in a series of hearings starting 23 September and set to run for a couple of weeks.

On behalf of the wood-based panel industry, we would like to congratulate Frans Timmermans, Sylvie Goulard and Virginijus Sinkevičius on their nominations as the members of the incoming Commission who will be most concerned with our sector of the European economy.

  • Frans Timmermans – The European Green Deal

Politically, one of President von der Leyen’s most important objectives is the European Green Deal, which aims to bring Europe’s ambitions on tackling climate change, energy policy and environmental protection to a new level. This includes enshrining the target for EU climate neutrality into law by 2050, and more ambitious goals on reducing emissions. To deliver on this promise, President von der Leyen has nominated Frans Timmermans, a Dutch Social Democrat and an incumbent Commission Vice President from the Juncker college.

As part of our industry contribution to the Green agenda, we are proud that the natural carbon sink properties of wood-based panels make the increased use of harvested wood products, such as panels, an ideal route towards the EU’s achievement of the Paris Agreement’s climate goals. Thanks to their positive effects on the environment, natural materials such as wood-based panels are well placed to contribute to the global efforts to mitigate climate change. For this reason, we urge for greater use of panels in furniture, construction, packaging and in other every day applications.

To find out more, please consult our website

  • Sylvie Goulard – Internal Market

Sylvie Goulard is a former member of the European Parliament and has been nominated for the Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs portfolio in the new College of Commissioners.

One of her tasks will be ensuring that the EU Circular Economy Action Plan feeds into the overall EU industrial strategy. To this end, we welcome Mrs Goulard’s ambition to implement the Action Plan and to ensure an efficient and optimal use of European resources, including wood-based materials.

We also encourage Commissioner Goulard to maintain harmonised European rules as a cornerstone of the Single Market, especially in the context of the Construction Products Regulation. We oppose fragmentation on every level and promote common legislation throughout Europe for the production, import and marketing of wood-based panels.

We firmly believe that a level playing field is central to the re-establishment of a strong industrial core at the heart of Europe. For this reason, EPF has recently joined a coalition of 145 European federations known as Industry4Europe.  Together we call on the European Union to implement an ambitious EU industrial strategy with a long-term vision and action plan

To find out more about how we support Industry4Europe, please consult the website.

 

  • Virginijus Sinkevičius – Environment and Oceans

The Lithuanian nominee Virginijus Sinkevičius will be the first-ever “Greens” Commissioner. In this capacity he will lead the Commission’s work on the new Circular Economy Action Plan, looking at how to contribute to a climate-neutral economy by increasing material circulation, encouraging sustainable material cycles and addressing the environmental impact of the sourcing of raw materials.

To that end, we encourage him to enhance the role of natural materials and, in particular, the role of wood-based panels in the EU’s bio and circular economy ambitions. Panels use material from sustainable sources, with more than half of the woody biomass raw material being either recycled or an industrial by-product.

Panels are a model example of the circular economy, especially due to the principle of the “cascading use” of wood. By using, re-using and recycling wood, our industry seeks to keep this valuable resource in the material and economic cycle as long as possible.

To find out more about how we support the “cascading use” of wood, please consult our website, and to find out more about our sustainability priorities, please click here.

 

EPF announces a 1.7% production increase for European Wood-based Panels in 2018, re-elects Dr Paolo Fantoni as Chairman, and confirms Mr Mārtiņš Lācis to the Managing Board

Last week, the European manufacturers of wood-based panels gathered in Dunblane, Scotland for their 2019 Annual General Meeting, generously hosted by Norbord Europe.

All attendees received a copy of the new EPF 2018/2019 Annual Report, the headline figures of which were presented during the meetings.  Overall the industry recorded a production growth during 2018 of 1.7%, led by increases on particleboard, plywood, hardboard and softboard.

Production (million m³) Countries 2018 2017 2018 v 2017
Particleboard EU28 + EFTA 32.0 31.2 2.6%
MDF EU28 + EFTA 12.3 12.3 -0.5%
OSB EU28 + EFTA 6.2 6.3 -1.6%
Hardboard EU28 + EFTA 0.5 0.5 1.5%
Softboard EU28 + EFTA 5.2 4.9 5.9%
Plywood EU28 3.2 3.1 1.7%
TOTAL WBP Total 59.3 58.3 1.7%

 

During the General Assembly, Dr Paolo Fantoni (Fantoni) was unanimously re-elected as Chairman of EPF for his third term from 2019-2021.  Mr Bernard Thiers (Unilin) remains Vice-Chairman. In addition, Mr Mārtiņš Lācis (Latvijas Finieris) will join the Managing Board of EPF as the new Chairman of the Plywood Product Group and successor to Mr Guillermo Hernanz (Garnica Plywood), who retired from this position that he had held since the plywood manufacturers joined EPF in 2016.

For the Open Part of the General Assembly, EPF welcomed more than 100 attendees to a stimulating debate on the opportunities to grow the demand for wood-based panels in construction, in furniture, in packaging and in other applications.  It concluded that an increased use of panels would bring multiple benefits, whilst helping to achieve the shared vision of a climate neutral Europe in 2050.

The next EPF AGM will be held on 17-19 June 2020, in Berlin, kindly hosted by VHI, our German member association.

For additional information, please contact EPF at info@europanels.org or on +32 2 556 2589.

EPF strongly supports the Single Market

EPF calls for European harmonisation of E1 as the minimum allowable standard, and for ½ E1 as a new market class

The European Wood-based Panel Federation (EPF) clarifies the common position of its members following developments in market, regulatory and judicial affairs, and with the unanimous agreement of its General Assembly given on 3 April 2019 in Brussels.

EPF strongly supports the single European market. It endorses harmonised standards across all EU-28 Member States. EPF welcomes the decision of the European Court of Justice in case T-229/17 on 10 April 2019, as it upholds the common European requirements of the Construction Products Regulation (CPR). This prevents fragmentation and the possible introduction of specific requirements by individual Member States. EPF feared the confusion that this could have caused to consumers.

European wood-based panels are used for furniture, construction, packaging and many other applications. CE-marked panels are produced according to EN 13986, the harmonised European standard for wood-based panels for use in construction. This defines two classes for formaldehyde emissions being E2 and E1. EPF members have committed since 2007 to make only E1 (or lower).

With its project E1 Compulsory, EPF seeks to ensure that no panels circulate in Europe with an emission level above that permitted by E1. ECHA’s recent proposal for a restriction recommends to: “… restrict the placing on the market or the use of all articles releasing formaldehyde at concentrations greater than or equal to 0.124 mg/m³ in the air of a test chamber used under the conditions prescribed in EN 717-1.” This matches E1, the ambition of EPF, and is thus supported.

With its project New Standard, EPF wishes to respond to market demand by adding a new class to the harmonised European standards to be known as ½ E1, with emission limits set at half the value of E1, tested according to EN 717-1. A request for such an additional class (see Annex for further details) has been made to the European Commission and CEN (European Committee for Standardization), asking for the fastest possible introduction, and is currently under consideration.

Chairman Dr Paolo Fantoni comments: “EPF members expect for E1 to be confirmed EU-wide as the minimum requirement for concerned panels by the current restriction process, thus delivering greater regulatory control, and for ½ E1 to be introduced as a new voluntary European class as soon as possible, thus responding to market demand”. Precise timings, especially for ½ E1, remain open due to various issues, including available testing capacity.

EPF urges caution on any demands for panels that go beyond these, especially if they infringe CPR which delivers common European requirements and a level playing field for construction products, including wood-based panels. EPF will give the latest update on the rapidly evolving topics of E1 and ½ E1, as well as on other EPF activities at its Press Conference to be held on Tuesday, 21 May 2019 at Interzum in Cologne.  All press contacts are warmly invited to attend.

EPF Proposal for a new Formaldehyde class – April 2019

EU Conference “Our Forests Our Future” – Brussels, 25-26 April 2019

The European Commission organised a significant conference “Our Forests, Our Future” to analyse opportunities to enhance the forest sector’s contribution to EU priorities. High-level speakers included Commissioner Phil Hogan (Agriculture & Rural Development), Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete (Climate Action & Energy) and Commissioner Neven Mimica (International Cooperation and Development).  EPF was honoured to share the same podium, Managing Board member and Garnica Plywood Director, Mr Guillermo Hernanz having been invited to deliver a unique perspective on this topic, especially plantation forestry, from Southern Europe.

 

 

Sustainable forest management, the multifunctional role of forests, resource efficiency and global forest responsibility are the guiding principles of the EU Forest Strategy, adopted in 2013. In 2018, a review of the strategy took stock of the actions implemented under the strategy, and the progress towards achieving its objectives for 2020. It concluded that 90% of the required actions had either been completed, or were underway, as highlighted by Commissioner Hogan in his opening address.  Commissioner Hogan used the platform to urge that a new strategy be launched after the completion of the current one.

The first day sessions focused on the contribution of forests and the forest-based sector to innovation, growth and jobs, on EU priorities and on opportunities and challenges (balancing GHG emissions) following the Paris Agreement.  EPF’s Board member Mr Guillermo Hernanz (Garnica Plywood) participated in the panel discussion on the increased demand for wood-based renewable energy, the search for bio-materials and the drive towards zero carbon buildings and products.  In particular, he was asked to comment on whether the price and value of wood today will encourage a new generation of forestry?  He highlighted the contribution of wood-based panels to the EU’s long-term ambition of a climate neutral Europe, emphasising that wood-based panels sequester carbon long after a tree is harvested.  He presented the benefits of plywood, especially its application as a lightweight and structurally strong product.  He called on the EU to support poplar and plantation forestry, especially in Southern Europe, where the future availability of suitable plywood raw material will be very challenging.

It should be highlighted that the Moderator, when introducing Mr Guillermo Hernanz, said that he had looked up EPF on the internet, and had been amazed to find that the industry accounts for 22 billion EUR of turnover and 100,000 jobs.  He was astonished (and delighted) to discover that this was such an important industry and was thus all the more pleased to welcome Garnica and EPF to the podium.  During the panel discussion he was furthermore boosted by the discovery that almost all of the wood-based panel industry’s biomass raw material comes from Europe, and he shared his pleasure in learning this with the 300-400 high level delegates present.  In short, this was a fantastic and very positive promotional occasion for EPF, enabled by the invitation to Mr Hernanz to participate as a speaker at the conference.