ISPM 15: The Ultimate Guide (2019)
When it comes to shipping there is perhaps no item more important than the humble wooden pallet.
It facilitates the shipment of millions of items every day.
However it can also be a hotbed of pests, contaminants and disease if not treated.
So to avoid the risk of spreading pests and diseases around the world the ISPM 15 was created.
We dig deep and look at all the aspects of ISPM 15 and what it means for wooden pallets!
Read on to learn all about ISPM 15.
Chapter 1: What does ISPM15 stand for & What Does It Mean?
It sounds important right? But what actually does ISPM 15 stand for and what does it mean?
ISPM 15 stands for International Standards For Phytosanitary Measures No. 15.
That’s not much clearer really, is it?
Let’s break it down a bit more and shed some light on the matter.
International standards are guidelines developed by an organisation for use around the globe. The most prominent organisation that develops international standards is the International Organisation for Standardisation more commonly referred to as the ISO.
Phytosanitary measures are measures that are taken to help protect humans, animals and plants from contaminates, pests or diseases.
So there we have it.
Quite simply ISPM 15 or International Standard for Phytosanitary Measure 15 is the 15th measure to protect humans, animals and plants from disease, pests and contaminants.
Now we know what the name actually means, we’ll dig into what this particular measure actually describes.
Chapter 2: What does it describe?
So what sets ISPM 15 apart from the other 23.
Yes that’s right. ISPM 15 is one of 24 International Standards for Phytosanitary Measures.
Or to give it it’s full name:
And instead of giving you 6 pages to read.
We’ll breakdown what ISPM 15 covers in easy to digest chunks.
Essentially as the name would suggest ISPM 15 is all to do with wood packaging in international trade.
As you’re likely aware millions of wooden pallets are shipped to and from different countries every day to facilitate the transport and logistics of goods.
With pallets being constructed from wood this obviously has a huge risk of spreading pests, diseases and contaminants in the wood.
That’s where ISPM 15 comes in.
It’s sole purpose is to reduce the risk of introducing and/or spreading pests, diseases and contaminants associated with wood packaging material used in international trade.
Specifically wood packaging (and dunnage) made of coniferous and non-coniferous raw wood.
However it excludes any wood packaging processed in such a way that makes it free from pests, such as plywood.
ISPM 15 describes a standard that is not intended to provide ongoing protection from contaminating pests or organisms.
ISPM 15 describes three approaches to eradicating the potential for pests and contaminants.
- Heat Treatment
- Kiln Drying
- Methyl bromide (MB) fumigation for wood packaging material
There are strict regulations for each of these approaches which ensures that pests, diseases and contaminants are all eradicated.
We’ll touch on these in more detail later.
Chapter 3: What countries require ISPM15?
ISPM 15 applies to international trade so its important that countries adhere to this measure to stop the spread of pests.
Here is a comprehensive list of different countries who require wooden packaging entering their country to meet ISPM 15 regulations.
- Costa Rica
- Dominican Republic
- EU (Portugal)
- Hong Kong
- New Zealand
- Republic of Korea
- South Africa
- Sri LankaSwitzerland
- Taiwan (includes Taipei),
- Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu
- USA and North America
Chapter 4: Why do wooden pallets need to be heat treated?
We’ve established that one of the main approaches to becoming ISPM 15 compliant is through heat treatment.
Heat treatment is one of the few officially approved approaches which meets ISPM 15.
This is because heat treatment successfully eliminates all of the following pests.
- Lyctidae (with some exceptions for HT)
- Bursaphelenchus xylophilus
This illustrates the effectiveness of heat treatment in eradicating harmful insects from wood packaging materials. Stopping them from being transported around the globe.
In fact, there are other treatments such as Kiln-drying (KD), chemical pressure impregnation which can be considered heat treatment as they meet the requirements through the use of steam, hot water, or dry heat.
Furthermore heat treatment is actually considered the best treatment type for ISPM 15.
Other treatments such as chemical fumigation have actually resulted in recalls in the food and pharmaceutical industries due to traces of chemicals being found
Chemical fumigation can also leave an unpleasant smell which isn’t desirable.
This is another reason why heat treatment is so important and considered the best and safest way of adhering to ISPM 15.
Heat treatment for ISPM 15 eradicates insects and larvae, reduces moisture content and makes it safe to handle pallets.
Chapter 5: How do you heat treat a wooden pallet?
So we know why we need to heat treat pallets.
But how exactly is this treatment carried out?
Let’s find out!
Wood packaging material such as wooden pallets should be heat treated using a specialist kiln in accordance with specific guidelines which lay out temperature and duration.
Wood packaging should be heated till the minimum wood core temperature reaches 56 degrees celsius.
This core wood temperature should be maintained for at least 30 minutes.
It’s been documented that a temperature of 56 degrees celsius is required to eradicate a wide range of pests but is also still commercially feasible.
Someone pests have actually been known to have a tolerance to higher temperatures, however pests in this category are managed by NPPOs on a case by case basis.
In fact, some countries actually do require that a higher core temperature to be maintained to adhere to ISPM 15.
Wood packaging such as wooden pallets are heat treated by being placed in a specialised plant or kiln which heats the wood to a specific temperature which is then maintained.
Kilns or plants may be subject to inspections to make sure they’re adequate for the job in question.
Chapter 6: Can heat treated pallets be reused?
If you wish to reuse pallets, either for transportation or a fun weekend project you need to be careful.
As pallets and wood material can be treated using harmful chemicals you will want to make sure that it’s safe to reuse your pallet.
Thankfully pallets which have been heat treated are safe to reuse. As all this means is that they’ve been heated to a specific temperature for a certain time period to kill insects and larvae.
Whereas other treatments such as Methyl bromide can be harmful and should be avoided for weekend projects.
Once a pallet has been heat treated to ISPM 15 standards companies and organisation can confidently use it to ship and transport good globally.
ISPM 15 will last the life time of the pallet. So once it has been heat treated it can be used throughout the entire lifetime of the pallet and will not require re-treatment. This may change if the pallet goes through any kind of repair or remanufacture work.
Chapter 7: What markings to heat treated pallets have?
Obviously, the pallets have to be stamped to show that they have been through this process.
Pallets that have been through the ISPM 15 process will be stamped with an authentication mark that is recognised worldwide.
This consists of the IPPC logo, which is an ear of corn with the “IPPC” mark next to it.
Then there’s the two-letter International Standards Organisation country code.
So for pallets from the US, this would be US; for pallets from Great Britain, it would be GB.
It’s very important that the wood packaging can be traced back and a chain of responsibility established for its whole passage into the supply chain.
So the next part of the code identifies the regulator in charge of the process and the certification number used by the manufacturer of the pallet or the organisation that treated it.
Then there are two more letters that tell you how this pallet has been treated. If it’s had a compliant heat treatment, it will bear the letters HT.
If it has been fumigated using the chemical methyl bromide, it will be stamped with the letters MB.
These are the absolute essentials for the stamp to show that it is compliant.
However, some pallet manufacturers choose to add extra details on their heat treated pallets.
But if you see the ISPM 15 authentication mark, you know that the pallets are safe to use.
Chapter 8: Frequently Asked Questions
Can you burn wooden pallets?
Generally wooden pallets are safe to burn however you must take extra care when doing so.
If your pallet has the symbol MB printed on it do NOT burn it. This is a sign that the pallet has been treated with Methyl Bromide which can be harmful and should not be burned.
So long as your pallet hasn’t been treated with any harmful chemicals it should be safe to burn. Just watch out for nails when breaking it up.
Typically wooden pallets burn with a hot flame as they’re normally very dry and thin.
Is processed wood exempt from ISPM 15?
Wood packaging made out of processed woods such as plywood, particle boards and oriented strand boards are considered ISPM 15 exempt.
The process of producing these types of wood means there is a low risk of harbouring pests or contaminants.
What does a blue pallet mean?
Blue pallets typically identify wooden pallets which are part of the CHEP (Commonwealth Handling Equipment Pool).
Who controls ISPM 15?
ISPM 15 is controlled by the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) as a part of the United Nations Food & Agriculture Organisations (FAO). They control the regulations through cooperation of UN member governments.
Chapter 9: Conclusion
So there we have it.
Everything you could possibly want to know about ISPM 15.
We now know exactly what it is and why it exists.
We’ve discussed the heat treatment process as well as different markings and what they mean.
We even identified some of the different pests we’re trying to eliminate through heat treatment!
Finally we finished up with some frequently asked questions!
However be sure to check back later as we’ll continue to expand and improve this ultimate guide to ISPM 15.
Thanks for reading 🙂