Forestry Commission logo

Requirements for importing wood packaging material (WPM)


Importers of goods of all kinds with wood packaging material (WPM) need to be aware of the following requirements for landing them in Great Britain (GB, i.e. England, Scotland and Wales). This is because wood packaging material is a known pathway for the introduction of harmful tree and forestry pests and diseases. Descriptions of different WPMs are given in Section 1 below.

The GB landing requirements for goods from “Third Countries” (i.e. non-EU Member States, except Switzerland, which is treated as an EU Member State), are relatively straightforward and are based on the International Standard for Phyto-sanitary Measures number 15 (ISPM15:2009)1. ISPM15 applies to all species of tree used to manufacture solid wood packaging materials, although certain wood product types are exempt. (See ‘Exemptions’ below.).

Different, less stringent landing requirements apply to wood packaging material originating in EU Member States, except Portugal. (See ‘WPM Imports from EU Member States and Switzerland’ below). The specific landing requirements for different consignor countries are set out below.

1. WPM imports from Third Countries (except Switzerland)

Wood packaging material (such as packing cases, boxes, crates, drums and similar containers; and pallets, box pallets, pallet collars and other load boards) may only be imported into Great Britain from Third Countries if they meet the requirements below. (Switzerland is treated as an EU country for WPM importing purposes.) 

A. WPM treatment options

Debarked wood packaging material, including dunnage (i.e. loose wood used to wedge or support cargo), shall be subject to one of the approved measures as specified in the ISPM15 (Revised 2009), namely:

  • heat treatment that achieves a temperature of 56 degrees Celsius for a minimum duration of 30 continuous minutes throughout the entire profile of the wood, including its core; or
  • dielectric heating (e.g. microwave) of wood not exceeding 20cm when measured across the smallest dimension of the piece or stack. The material must be heated to achieve a minimum temperature of 60 degrees Celsius for one continuous minute throughout the entire profile of the wood, including at its surface; or
  • fumigated with methyl bromide in accordance with requirements described in Annex 1 of ISPM15.

ISPM15 tagThe material must also display a mark with the two-letter ISO country code, which is a code assigned by the National Plant Protection Organisation (NPPO) of the country concerned, identifying the producer and the approved measure applied to the wood packaging material as specified in Annex II of ISPM15 1. (See example mark opposite . The IPPC referred to in the mark is the International Plant Protection Convention).

B. Use of debarked wood

Wood packaging material must be made of debarked wood, irrespective of the type of treatment applied. For this standard, any number of visually separate and clearly distinct small pieces of bark may remain if they are:

  • less than 3cm in width (regardless of the length); or
  • greater than 3cm in width, with the total surface area of an individual piece of bark less than 50 square cm.

For methyl bromide treatment, the bark must be removed before treatment, because the presence of bark on the wood can affect the effectiveness of the treatment. For heat treatment, the bark may be removed before or after treatment. When a dimension limitation is specified for a certain type of heat treatment, (e.g. dielectric heating), any bark must be included in the dimension measurement.

2. WPM imports from EU Member States and Switzerland

There is no requirement for ISPM15 treatment and marking to be applied to wood packaging material being imported to GB from another EU Member State, except Portugal. However, if WPM has been applied and meets this standard, it will be accepted.

Where ISPM15 treatment and marking have not been applied, and the conifer WPM comes from another EU Member State (except Portugal), the less stringent GB Protected Zone landing requirements detailed in A and B below must be applied.

Conifer wood packaging material originating in Portugal and being imported to Great Britain must be ISPM15-compliant because of the outbreak of pinewood nematode (PWN) there. (EU Commission Implementing Decision 2012/535/EU refers.)

WPM treatment options other than ISPM15 requirements

A. Conifer wood

Conifer material shall be either:

  • bark-free; or
  • accompanied by a plant passport issued by a registered forestry trader in an EU Member State declaring that the wood with residual bark originated in an area known to be free of certain bark beetle species; or
  • kiln dried (KD), marked with a KD mark, and accompanied by a plant passport issued by a registered forestry trader in an EU Member State.

The bark-free or kiln-dried options are the most practical options for exporters in continental EU Member States, given the wide distribution there of forestry pests and diseases of concern to GB. It should be noted that the bark-free requirement is stricter than the debarked wood requirement. Bark-free means wood from which all bark has been removed, excluding the vascular cambium, in-grown bark around knots, and pockets between rings of annual growth.

B. Hardwood

Generally speaking, wood packaging materials made from most hardwood timber types are not regulated when they come from other EU Member States, and therefore they do not require any treatment or marking. However, wood packaging made from sweet chestnut and plane wood coming from other EU Member States is subject to GB plant health controls. The specific landing requirements for these controlled hardwoods are not provided in this guidance, because these wood types are not often used in wood packaging materials. They can, however, be obtained from our Cross-Border Plant Health Service if required. (See ‘Further information’ below).

3. Exemptions

ISPM15 requirements or other landing requirements do not apply to:

  • raw wood of 6mm thickness or less; and
  • wood packaging material constructed entirely from processed wood produced by using glue, heat and pressure, or a combination thereof, including plywood, oriented strand board (OSB), medium-density fibreboard (MDF) and other particle board products.

These exemptions apply to wood packaging materials originating in EU Member States and Third Countries.

4. Phyto-sanitary and Treatment Certificates

There is no requirement for ISPM15-compliant wood packaging to be accompanied by a phyto-sanitary or treatment certificate, because the certification is provided via the application of the ISPM15 mark. This applies to wood packaging materials originating in EU Member States and Third Countries.

5. Further information

The information on this page is also available in this flow chart.

Further information about GB landing requirements for wood, wood products, wood packaging and bark is available from the Forestry Commission’s Cross-Border Plant Health Service:

1 International Standards for Phytosanitary Measures “Guidelines for Regulating Wood Packaging Material in International Trade” – ISPM No. 15 (Revision 2009 – CPM8) , published by the Secretariat of the International Plant Protection Convention, Food & Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome.

Last updated: 4th January 2018