Thursday, 02 August 2012
The use of wood and fiber testing to support FSC certification
Recently, the media has been abuzz with stories of illegal wood making its way into mainstream products. Recent legislative changes in Europe and the United States will go some way to crack down on the trade in illegal wood, but certification systems like the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) have an important role to play as well.
Earlier this year, FSC began a multi-year project to incorporate wood and fiber testing as one of the processes to assure the veracity of FSC product claims. Early results from testing paper and panel products has shown that testing can provide strong supporting evidence around claims being made on FSC products. Combined with the development of FSC’s Online Claims Platform, these efforts will allow FSC, certification bodies and accreditation agencies to quickly and efficiently validate FSC claims and protect the integrity of the FSC system.
FSC is confident that by using the latest wood and fiber science it can improve quality assurance at an affordable cost. Throughout 2012, FSC is purchasing a variety of wood and paper products from retailers in Europe and North America and testing these products at internationally recognized laboratories to see where FSC claims can be validated using wood and paper science. Testing is an established technology used in the forest products industry that can determine the composition of a sample through identifying unique anatomical features of the wood or paper. Based on the results of these tests, FSC expects by the end of 2012 to add a wood and paper testing program to the other quality assurance measures that are currently part of the FSC system. In addition, FSC will develop and implement a long-term strategy to understand how wood and fiber science might be incorporated into the FSC chain of custody standards to increase quality assurance, increase system efficiencies and reduce certification costs.
What is wood and fiber testing?
Wood and fiber testing are technologies that are used to identify and quantify the mix of tree fibers contained in a sample of wood or paper. Depending on the product, experts can determine the genus and sometimes the species of the wood or paper sample. Also, testing can provide clear indicators that recycled fiber has been used in a paper product. For example, double blind tests conducted by WWF Germany were able to identify and distinguish papers made from post-consumer recycled material or paper that contained post-consumer recycled material. The information collected through testing can then be compared to the claims made on FSC certified products and if discrepancies are found, further investigations can be conducted.