UK facing EU pallet time-bomb post Brexit

Wooden pallets carrying goods from outside the EU must be heat-treated or fumigated and certified before they can enter Europe, but the UK doesn’t have enough of these pallets to trade with the EU after the end of the year.

International Standards For Phytosanitary Measures No.15 (ISPM 15) directly addresses the need to treat wood used to ship products between countries, to prevent the international transport and spread of disease and insects.

The pallet rules are not applied to trade between EU member states and consequently many of the 100 million UK pallets and crates in circulation for EU trade will not meet this new standard if Britain leaves without a deal that maintains current arrangements.

Wooden pallets need to be baked at 56C for ISPM 15 compliance and the UK currently lacks the capacity to make all packaging compliant at short notice, meaning that delays, cancellations and cost increases are likely.

Estimates suggest that fewer than a third of pallets used in the UK currently comply with the packaging rules and if the majority are prevented from entry into the EU, those goods will not be able to be distributed.

Access to wooden pallets is essential for most small imported and exported goods, so this could be a significant issue, if firms can’t source compliant pallets and the lack of awareness of this issue means that many businesses do not even realise they need to prepare.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is aware of the need to invest in new ovens to put the wooden pallets through the heat-treating process and insists that treatment capacity has increased.

The department said in a statement. “We are working closely with industry to help ensure a sufficient stock of compliant pallets in time for January.”

For further information on packaging compliance within the EU after the UKs withdrawal in 2021, please contact Chris Carlile for advice.