In the middle of last year, Germany changed the requirements for permissible formaldehyde emission for all types of wood-based panels: plywood, PB, OSB, etc. Despite the existing Harmonized European Norms and Standards (the allowable level is class E1, the emission value is ≤ 0.124 mg/m3), the import of products with formaldehyde emissions higher than ½ E1 for sale in Germany was banned from January 1, 2020. Other EU countries were also forced to give up some supplies that did not meet the new requirements, since they would not be able to sell such plywood and panel products in Germany.
This situation has been compounded by several factors: tests for formaldehyde emissions had to be carried out in a short time, and this is a long process (more than a month). In addition, there were limited laboratory facilities that had the ability and accreditation to conduct such tests, because they were overbooked.
“Despite changing requirements and limited number of laboratories, we managed to meet the required deadlines. We received the protocols and relevant confirming documents from The Bremen Institute for Materials Testing (MPA), Germany, at the beginning of the year and were able to fulfill our obligations to European customers by delivering our products on time,” says Olga Kukut, Head of Technology Development and Quality Assurance at Sveza.
Passing the tests did not cause any particular difficulties for Sveza. Even before the introduction of the new requirements, the level of formaldehyde emission was significantly lower than the current Harmonized Standards due to well-established production technology, precise glue formula, reliable suppliers, and quality resins.
“The market of plywood manufacturers both in Europe, and Russia, was shaking. With the existing technological processes many companies could not meet the conditions for formaldehyde emission and had to close some production facilities and decrease the geography of their supplies,” says Olga Kukut. “It is possible to achieve this level, but often only if the technology is changed and other additional ingredients of glue mixtures are used for production, but this significantly increases the cost and reduces the competitiveness of products.”
However, experts do not rule out further tightening of requirements, and predict that by 2021, the permissible level of formaldehyde emission can be reduced to 40% or even 20% of the existing regulatory class E1.
“We prepare for possible changes and have already started working on possible further improvements to the technology: we are engaged in research and involve research laboratories for testing. It is important to work out all the details of the production process without compromising quality, without increasing the cost of the final product for the consumer, and to reduce emission,” says Olga Kukut.