EUR-Pallets 101:How The Largest General Exchange Pool In The World Works
With 300-500 million pallets, the European Pallet Pool is the largest in the world; a look at the Euro block-style pallet and the European Pallet Association, the largest controlling organization of the pool.
By Chaille Brindley
Date Posted: 8/1/2005
With hundreds of millions of pallets in circulation, the pool of re-usable EUR-pallets is the largest in the world. All EUR-pallets are manufactured and repaired to a tight spec that is monitored by a number of international organizations. The largest of these is the European Pallet Association (EPAL), which has been in operation since 1995 in Germany, France, Switzerland, Belgium, Slovenia, Slovakia, Spain, United Kingdom, Italy, Poland and Portugal. The marking system and regulations governing EUR-pallets is quite complex and can be mind boggling for the novice.
This guide covers the basics of the EPAL system for EUR-pallets and explains why shippers outside of Europe should consider shipping on official EUR-pallets to Europe. The EUR standard is owned and controlled by the UIC, the international union of railways. The majority of EUR-pallets are in European countries, although they are shipped all over the world. In North America, EUR-pallets are commonly referred to as "Europallets."
The EUR standard calls for a nine block pallet design. EUR-pallets require a very tight spec including marking, lumber quality and species, size, repair standards, certification, etc. Official EUR pallets must be made or repaired by a licensed company according to the standard. Abuse or unauthorized
EUR Standard & Marking
The standard calls for the following requirements when the pallet is manufactured. Much of this information has come from EPAL or a handout produced by the National Wooden Pallet & Container Association:
• Footprint size is 800 x 1200 (mm).
• The moisture content of the wood cannot exceed 22%; a wide variety of softwood and hardwood species can be used.
• Lumber quality: no decay, pitch, splits, rot or insect infestation are permitted. The diameter of knots cannot exceed the following value on each length of board equal to the width of the board: ¼ of the width for the cross pieces and 1/3 of the width for other boards.
• All boards must consist of a single piece of wood.
• Bottom deckboards are chamfered.
• No protruding nails are allowed.
• The vertical corners of the finished pallet must be clipped at 45 degrees or rounded.
• Marking and labeling varies depending who makes the pallet and what organization is responsible for certifying the mark.
• All EUR pallets have the pallet manufacturer’s identity and date code stamped on the pallet. Normally, there is a country of origin code and a mark indicating the railway licensing authority. Look for the official EUR logo as well.
• EPAL pallets may also have a quality control clamp on the center block. Repaired EPAL pallets may have a nail with the EPAL quality symbol on it.
For more information, visit www.epal-pallets.org
EUR pallets must be removed or repaired if the following occur:
• A board, cross piece or block is missing.
• A panel, bottom board or cross piece is broken.
• A block, panel or bottom board is chipped/splintered so that a nail shank is visible.
• A panel or bottom board has some type of indentation.
• A nail or screw is protruding from the surface.
• The appropriate marking has been removed, covered up or is no longer
• A pallet is so dirty or damp that the goods shipped on it could be damaged.
• A pallet is damaged or deviates from the required quality standards.
• A pallet is not cleared of attached plastic, paper or similar material.
Why EUR pallets should be important to shippers sending loads to Europe.
Due to packaging waste reduction laws in place throughout Europe, using a reusable pallet, such as a EUR-pallet, can save customers money and the headaches associated with disposal. Steve Klinkefus, president, Compliance Packaging International Ltd., said, "American companies can better serve their European customers by shipping goods on reusable, inspected and certified EUR-pallets…In most cases, American pallet types create direct and indirect disposal costs for European importers, due to the impracticalities involved with the reuse and/or recycling of these pallets."
Re-usable packaging, such as EUR-pallets, have commercial value at the receiving point, have no disposal taxes, and are strictly regulated, which can help deal with any border issues.
EUR-pallets and emerging
The new international standard (ISPM-15) gives individual countries some latitude in developing specifics about how to deal with recycled pallets. As a voluntary standard, international governments are not required to enact it. Thus, packaging could be ISPM-15 compliant and still not be in compliance with the entry requirements of the importing country if it has not adopted the international standard or has interpreted certain provisions differently than other nations. You must always check to make sure that the packaging is compliant with the current regulations for the country where the packaging is headed.
Since EUR-pallets tend to come from Europe, many pallet companies in North America want to know if they can freely ship them back to Europe without them having to be ISPM-15 compliant. Stan Bowes, president of EPAL, said, "As with any other solid wood packaging, any "EUR" Euro pallets, whether EPAL or not, must conform to ISPM-15 to be allowed into the European Union
He further said, "Prior to the official adoption of ISPM by the EU, if it could be shown that the pallet had originally been made in a member state, then it could be re-imported into the EU without further ceremony. This is no longer the case. There is a small exception, in the case of Switzerland, as it is totally surrounded by member states of the EU."
Based on what Stan said, official EUR-pallets that are not marked as being treated and ISPM-15 compliant should be treated and marked in accordance with ISPM-15 before being re-shipped to the EU.
The good news is that some Euro-pallets already carry the IPPC mark and have been treated according to ISPM-15. What if a used Euro pallet needs to be repaired? Well, that’s where things get a little bit complex. Only licensed companies are allowed to make or repair official Euro-pallets. Phytosanitary treatment is not considered a repair and thus can be done by anyone who is certified under an official government program.
According to Stan, the UIC specifically prohibits fumigation for the manufacture and repair of EUR-pallets. Thus, a company could fumigate EUR-pallets, mark them according to ISPM-15 and ship them to Europe. The packaging would be in compliance with phytosanitary rules but not the UIC standard for Euro-pallets. Stan said, "These pallets would not be refused entry into the EU, as they would comply with the required phytosanitary standard. There is a risk element. It is possible that the recipient could raise an objection, if they knew of the UIC directive…The risk of this is very small, but I would not personally advocate fumigation of second hand EUR-pallets."
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