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03Mar

Bromide Bad? Introducing Our Heat Treatment Plant

It is always vital that stock arrives in good condition, and an intrinsic part of this process with imported goods is the treatment of shipping containers to remove pests. This topic has been a contentious subject for some time due to environmental concerns with current treatment methods, so we thought it would be a good idea to outline the process, why it is important, and a new project that we have undertaken to reduce our environmental impact.

Pest control is an essential part of the supply chain, especially for products made using natural materials, as small pests and insects inevitably accompany the raw materials when they are harvested. Our processes are designed to ensure that this is never an issue by the time goods leave us in the UK.

This post is slightly text-heavy, but it is such an important issue that we felt it warranted a thorough explanation. If you have any questions about anything mentioned, please feel free to give us a call on 01278 437123 and a member of the team here will be happy to answer all your queries.

Methyl Bromide - The old method of product fumigation

Methyl Bromide

 

Bromomethane, also known as Methyl Bromide, is a colourless, odourless gas that was used primarily as a pesticide to aid the growth of crops such as Strawberries until its use was phased out within the last decade. Now, 97 percent of Methyl Bromide use worldwide is for product fumigation.

Methyl Bromide is both manmade and naturally occurring, but it is well documented that it causes damage to the atmosphere. Still, the import and export of goods worldwide relies upon the use of Methyl Bromide to fumigate products in Far Eastern shipping ports, with the vast majority of countries requiring goods to be treated before they are permitted for import.

Now the interesting part: Methyl Bromide is due to be banned internationally in 2015. Methyl Bromide fumigation is already banned in the EU, and has been since 2010.
 



Due to our environmental concerns, as well as the logistical implications, we have been searching for an alternative for our own products for a number of years. We used to offer fumigation services in-house, as some of our own customers often need to export our stock from the UK to countries like Australia, but we were uncomfortable with the environmental issues that this raised. 

Therefore, earlier in 2013 we had a brand new Heat Treatment plant installed at our main warehouse in Somerset, which we feel addresses and overcomes all of the issues, constraints and problems that fumigation causes. It is the first of its kind in our marketplace, so keep reading for more information about what we've done!

ISPM15 - An internationally recognised standard for treatment

ISPM15

 

ISPM15 is an international standard that covers wood packaging material used in international trade. The standard is endorsed by the United Nations Food And Agriculture Organisation, and aims to ensure that all wooden material is treated and regulated to an acceptable standard worldwide.

Our new Heat Treatment facility is able to treat our products to both meet and exceed the ISPM15 standard, ensuring that Methyl Bromide fumigation is not needed to be carried out by us here in the UK. You may have seen one of the stamps above, probably on a wooden pallet, and this shows that the wood has been treated to the ISPM15 level. The code at the top gives the membership number of the company that carried out the treatment, and the letters at the bottom outline how this was conducted, with 'HT' standing for Heat Treatment. (This would be replaced by MB if treated with Methyl Bromide).

Only certified treatment providers, of which we are now one, can legally apply the mark of certification to items.


Our new Heat Treatment facility removes the need for us to carry out any fumigation on-site.  Treatment to the ISPM15 standard requires strict guidelines to be followed, which is why we are very happy to have been accepted as members of TIMCON, the Timber Packaging and Pallet Confederation. This confirms that the treatment services we offer are in line with international standards.

Timcon

Our willow products are effectively timber, as although willow grows differently to a 'traditional' tree, the composition of the raw material is very similar, and therefore the same guidelines for treatment as other wooden items still apply.

Our New Heat Treatment Plant - What are the benefits?

Plant

 

The image above shows one section of our Heat Treatment plant. Pallets of stock are rolled in on runners, before the doors are sealed and a fan at the far end blows hot air through vents in the floor and the ceiling. Various probes throughout the facility then monitor the temperature, ensuring that a consistent temperature is reached not just in the hottest area, but throughout the whole plant.

After the plant reaches its optimum temperature this is maintained for 30 minutes to ensure that any pests or other organisms within the plant are killed, and it is this consistency that secures the ISPM15 treatment standard. All the data from each individual probe is logged on the facility's computer, and a certificate for the treated stock can then be issued along with a copy of the graph such as the example shown below.

The stock is then available for immediate despatch. Stock only enters our warehouse once it has been treated, which ensures that the whole facility is a 'clean' environment. We then actively control humidity levels within the warehousing to ensure other problems like mould are prevented.

The heat treatment process takes between four and five hours depending on the time of year, in winter it takes slightly longer due to the colder ambient temperature. When compared to the days that fumigation takes, this is another clear benefit of heat treatment, meaning that we can receive a delivery, treat it, and despatch much more quickly than was previously possible.

 


Treatment

 

We take great pride in the systems that we have in place that ensure consistent product quality, and this is reflected in the rarity of issues and product returns that we encounter. Furthermore, we are also the only supplier in our industry with the ability to heat treat products in-house, a statistic we are extremely proud of.

Despite the ethical and environmental considerations, some importers often ignore these important elements of supplying products of this nature. If you are purchasing any products created from natural materials, be it wicker hampers, wooden boxes or some other form of packaging, always be sure to ask the supplier to explain their own policies on treatment at each step of the supply chain and confirm what international standards the products have been treated to. This will help to ensure that any products you receive are safe to use.

Hopefully this gives you a bit of an insight into the steps we take to control the quality of our products, but it still leaves some questions at large, mainly how the shipping industry worldwide will change when Methyl Bromide is outlawed for good in 2015. We'll be sure to keep you updated on any news!

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