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A New Eco Certification for Composite Wood Products

If you are a frequent reader of my articles, you may be wondering why I’m writing about composite panels. I follow woodworking news because many of the sustainability issues are similar to those in the pulp and paper industry (e.g. Lacey Act compliance, wood sourcing, workplace safety, etc). Furthermore, our Release Papers Business sells products for engineered specifically for applying decorative surfaces onto solid surfaces. And generally speaking, I think we can all stand to learn much by getting outside of our realm of direct responsibilities and working across industries.

But more to the point, last month the Composite Panel Association announced expansion of its Eco-Certified Composite Certification Program. Composite panels are defined as particleboard, medium density fiberboard (MDF), hardboard, engineered wood siding or engineered wood trim. The certification program has separate criteria for primary manufacturers (those making panels) as well as for manufacturers of finished products (like cabinets or furniture).

As many of these products are used indoors, there is an absolute basic criteria as part of the standard. Panels must meet the CARB requirements for formaldehyde limits.  I like this – a show stopper in a standard that is focused clearly on a core environmental issue related to indoor air quality. Beyond this element, the standard allows for some flexibility and must meet three of five criteria related to:

  1. Carbon Footprint
  2. Local and Renewable Resources
  3. Recycled/Recovered wood
  4. Sustainability
  5. Wood Sourcing

While I am somewhat limited in my knowledge of these products, it strikes me that they’ve tackled the tough issues while allowing for some flexibility in implementation. I personally would have labeled the “sustainability” aspects as “Efficient Use of Materials” as it is related to minimizing waste to landfill. But despite the word choice, I like the criteria.

And here’s what I like best about this standard: the wood sourcing criteria is inclusive and recognizes both the SFI and FSC programs.

So, kudos to the CPA and to others that express inclusive positions on wood sourcing criteria for eco-standards.

Laura M. Thompson, Phd, is director of sustainable development and technical marketing at Sappi Fine Paper North America. She has a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from the University of New Hampshire and an M.S. and PhD in Paper Science from the Institute of Paper Science and Technology. Since 1995, she has held a variety of positions within the paper industry including R&D, mill environmental, product development for specialties and coated fine paper, and, most recently, sustainability. Since joining Sappi in 2006, Laura has quickly emerged as an industry leader in the field of sustainable development. This is reposted from The Environmental Quotient with permission from Sappi Fine Paper North America. For more information, please visit Sappi’s eQ Microsite. You can also follow @eQLauraThompson on Twitter.

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