The new criteria required to obtain the European Ecolabel logo For wood parquet and laminate and bamboo floors
On March 14, 2013, the European Commission modified the criteria presented in Ruling EC 2010/18 required to obtain the European Union's “Ecolabel” logo for wood flooring with environmental excellence. In order to obtain the Ecolabel mark, producers must issue a statement that certifies their complete respect for every specific technical-management parameter prescribed. We'll take a closer look at just what the Ecolabel mark is, its purpose, its importance in the market, and the requisites necessary to obtain it.
Ecolabel: ecological quality logoThe Ecolabel logo is a voluntary ecological sustainability logo proposed to producers by the European Union with the objective of promoting products with reduced environmental impact throughout their lifespan. The EU Ecolabel awarding scheme is managed directly by designated organizations known as the “Competent Bodies” appointed by each EU member nation. These Competent Bodies evaluate the applications submitted for the issue of the EU Ecolabel on the basis of product group and the criteria published by the European Commission for each group and type of product inserted in the Rules of the European Council and Parliament (EC No. 66/2010 dated November 25, 2010). Each application must be presented to the Competent Body in the product's nation of origin. For products produced outside the European Economic Area Market, applications must be submitted to the Competent Body in the nation where the product was launched in the market. Products bearing this seal of ecological quality distinguished by the daisy-shaped logo are the consumer goods that have been selected on the basis of the selection criteria established by the EU member nations and the European Commission that aim at awarding both environmental excellence and the performance levels of widely-used articles, such as coverings for floors made with wood and plant-based substances, for example.
Ecolabel acceptance criteria
Ruling EC 2010/18 specifies the ecological criteria for the issue of the Ecolabel logo for wood flooring. Eligible products must comply with the quality mark's general provisions set forth in Regulation EC 66/2010. The group of products known as “wooden coverings for floors” includes covering products of plant origin such as wood, wood coverings, floors in laminate, coverings and floors in cork or bamboo with over 90% of the final product's weight derived from wood, wood powder and/or wood/plant based materials. This group of products does not include coverings for walls, outdoor use, or structural purposes.
Types of certifiable product
In order to prevent confusion, the European Regulation has provided correct definitions for the products that can be awarded the Ecolabel logo if they meet the requisites prescribed by the European Commission.
• Wood and wood-based materials. These materials are made by bonding with the use of adhesives or glues one or more of the following materials: wood fibre, and/or wood sheets or slabs, and/or residue of wood coming from forests, plantations, sawdust, paper industry pulp residue and/or recycled wood.
• Wood and wood-based materials. These include solid wood panels, wood fibre panels, medium-density fibre panels (MDF), chipboard, OSB (Oriented Strand Board), plywood, and solid wood panels. The term "wood-based materials" is also applied to composite materials made with wood-based panels faced with plastic or plastic laminate and/or resin, metal foil or other finished/semi-finished woodbased covering materials (veneer). The group of products defined as “wooden coverings for floors” includes solid wood and virgin wood coverings, laminate flooring, cork coverings and bamboo floors.
• Solid wood and virgin wood coverings are defined as: “wood floor or wall coverings composed of a piece of heartwood with tongues or grooves at the sides or of multi-layer panels to which various layers of wood are glued. A wood covering can be unfinished and polished after installation, and therefore ether finished on site or pre-finished at the producer's factory”. As regards solid and virgin wood coverings, the criteria can be applied to coverings for floors and walls if the production process is the same and if the same materials and production methods are used. European Committee for Standardization Standard CEN/TC 112.
• Laminate floors are defined as “rigid coverings for floors with a top layer formed by one or more thin sheets of fibrous material (usually paper) soaked in thermosetting amino-plastic resin (usually melamine), pressed or fastened to a substrate that is usually finished with a support layer". As regards laminate floor coverings, the criteria can be applied only to coverings for floors and indoor use. European Committee for Standardization Standard CEN/TC 134.
• Cork coverings are defined as coverings for floors or walls having cork as main component. Cork granulate is mixed with a binder and then hardened or else various layers of cork (composite/veneer) can be pressed together using glue. Cork coverings can be divided into natural cork tiles (which have cork composite as main component and which must be provided with a finishing) and processed cork panels (composed of various layers, one of which being a fibre panel having a main component of cork composite or cork as a technical solution to be used with a finishing wear layer). As regards cork coverings, the criteria can be applied to coverings for floors and for walls if the production process is the same and if the same materials and production methods are used. These criteria have been established exclusively for indoor use. European Committee for Standardization Standard CEN/TC 134.
• Bamboo covering are those with solid bamboo or bamboo agglomerate as their principal element. For bamboo coverings, the criteria can be applied only to coverings for floors and indoor use. The reference unit to be adopted for the inputs and outputs is 1 sq m of finished product.
The quality requiredIn order to obtain the Ecolabel logo, wood coverings for floors must meet Ecolabel criteria and satisfy the following conditions: • Limited environmental impact on habitats and natural resources
• Limited energy consumption
• Limitation of substances harmful for health and the environment.
• Limited use of the harmful substances contained in the materials and finished products.
• Safety and absence of health risks in the home. • Information that enables consumers to use the product efficiently and reduce the overall environmental impact to a minimum.
The European Regulation envisions the application of 11 technical criteria that conclude with the consumer information to be provided on the Ecolabel by starting from the raw materials. In detail, these criteria regard:
1. Raw materials
2. Use of harmful substances
3. Production process
4. Waste management
5. Phase of use
6. Emission of harmful substances
7. Emission of volatile organic compounds (VOC).
9. Suitability of use
10. Consumer information
11. Information to be provided on the Ecolabel
Even if it is not possible to analyze all the criteria established by the European Regulation, below we provide the most important points that producers interested in obtaining the Ecolabel logo must respect.
The origins of the raw materials
All materials with wood, cork, and bamboo bases must be taken from sustainably-managed forests. Producers must apply purchasing policies that are sustainable for the timber and adopt a system for the tracing and verification of the origin of the wood that follows it from the forest to the first reception point. Producers must also document the origin of all the wood and guarantee that it comes from legitimate sources.
The wood must not come from protected areas or those for which official processes for recognition as such are currently in progress, old-growth forests or forests with high environmental value defined as such by national procedures, unless such purchases fully comply with national environmental protection regulations.
Lastly, it is well worth remembering that as of January 1st, 2013, at least 70% of the solid wood and 40% of the wood-based materials contained in wood producers bearing the EU Ecolabel logo allowed for sale in the market must be taken from sustainably-managed forests or from recycled materials and certified as such.
Wood and recycled materials
The recycled wood, post-consumer wood chips or wood fibre used in the production of wood-based materials (input) must at least comply with the standard established by the European Panel Federation (EPF) In Paragraph 6 of the document entitled «EPF Standard for delivery conditions of recycled wood» dated October 24, 2002. The total quantity of recycled material must respect the limits indicated in Prospectus No. 1 (see the Table on Page 14). It must be borne in mind that the term “wood chips” is used to indicate the bits of wood derived from the processes of chopping, crushing, and sawing adopted at most sawmills and during similar industrial processes. Wood chips are included in the group of recycled materials as defined, while remembering that wood chips are considered waste material while being transported to the panel producer and are therefore subject to the checks required by law and consequently treated as required before recycling in a new wood panel. After incorporation into a new wood panel, the material is no longer considered a waste, and for such reason the checks required by law are no longer necessary.
Impregnated substances and preservatives
Wood floors must not be impregnated. After cutting, solid wood must not be treated with substances or preparations containing any of the substances included in any of the following lists: WHO recommended classification of pesticides 1a (extremely harmful) and, WHO recommended classification of pesticides 1b (very harmful) substances. Furthermore, the wood must be treated as specified in the following European Council Directives: Directive 79/117/EEC dated December 21, 1978, regarding the prohibition against the selling and using phytohealth products containing active ingredients, and Directive 76/769/EEC: member nation provisions regarding restrictions on the marketing and use of certain harmful substances and preparations.
In this regard, the EU Ecolabel Regulation establishes the following general requisites:
a) requisites regarding harmful substances for the treatment of virgin wood and the plant materials that may be applied also as coverings and surface treatments;
b) chemical substances classified as harmful for the environment by the producer or the supplier according to the European Community classification system (28th amendment to Directive 67/548/EEC) must respect the following two limits:
- contain only up to 5% of volatile organic compounds (VOC)
- wet paints and varnishes must not exceed 14 g/sq m of the surface area, and the quantity of VOC applied must not exceed 35 g/sq m;
c) chemical substances classified as harmful to the environment by Directive 1999/45/ EC must not be added to the substances and preparations used for surface treatment. Products may, however, contain up to 5% % of volatile organic compounds (VOC) as specified in Council Directive 1999/ 13/EC. Whenever the product must be diluted, the concentration of the product diluted must not exceed the limit values specified above. The quantity of harmful substances for the environment applied (in wet paints/varnishes) must not exceed 14 g/m2 of surface area, and the quantity of VOC applied (in wet paints/varnishes) must not exceed 35 g/m2.
The emissions of formaldehyde by the substances and preparations used in surface treatments must be lower than 0.05 ppm. The applicant and/or his supplier must provide the material safety sheet and a conformity certificate or its equivalent for the purpose of meeting this requisite, together with the necessary information on the formulation of the surface treatment provided, and test certificates issued by accredited laboratories that certify the respect of the limits established by law.
A formula has been proposed for the calculation of the energy consumed during the production process that in addition to the effective energy consumed also takes into account the percentage of raw material taken from certified forests and recycled materials. Energy consumption calculated in this way regards only the production phase from the raw material to the finished floor covering and is expressed as the average energy consumed during the production process per year (excluding heating systems).
Applicants for the Ecolabel logo must provide all the necessary documentation regarding the procedures adopted for the recovery of production process by-products. The documentation must contain all the following information: type and quantity of the waste recovered; the type of waste elimination provided, and information on the reutilization (inside or outside the production process) of the waste and the by-products in the production of new products.
Only easily recyclable materials, materials obtained from renewable energy sources, and materials destined for re-utilization can be used for the packaging of floor laying elements. The applicant for the Ecolabel logo must provide a description of the packaging used for the product and a declaration that certifies the conformity to this requisite.
Suitability for use
The product must be suitable for use. The respective documentation may include data obtained through the use of the appropriate ISO, CEN (EN Standard) or equivalent testing methods, such as national or inhouse company procedures. A declaration of suitability for use for the product must also be prepared and based on the information regarding the optimum use of the product by the final user. In compliance with the new European Building Regulation (995). A product will be considered suitable for use whenever it complies with a standard, a European technical homologation, or a non-harmonized technical specification recognized at European level. The European Union «EC» mark of conformity for building products provides producers with an easily recognizable conformity certificate that is deemed sufficient for the purpose above.
The product must be sold with all the user information required, recommendations for its correct and optimum use in both technical and general terms, and product care information. At least the following information must be provided on the packaging and/or in the documentation enclosed to the product:
a) indication that the product has been awarded the EU Ecolabel logo, with a brief but specific explanation of its meaning in addition to the general information provided in the label's second panel.
b) recommendations for product use and maintenance. Such information must provide all the instructions required for product maintenance and use in particular. Whenever necessary, reference must be provided to the characteristics of product use under difficult conditions, such as in regard to water absorption, soiling resistance, chemical product resistance, the preparation required for the sub-surface, cleaning instructions, the recommended types of detergents, and the cleaning intervals necessary, for example. This information must also include indications on the product's potential lifespan in technical terms expressed either as an average or as a range;
c) indications regarding the product's postuse recycling or elimination circuit (explanations that provide consumers with information on the product's potential elevated performance);
d) information on the EU Ecolabel logo and the respective groups of product.
As we invite our readers to visit the European website www.ecolabel.eu for more information, it goes without saying that a product bearing the Ecolabel daisy acquires added value, because in addition to being a symbol that guarantees the product's sustainability and quality, it instills in millions of consumers in Europe and around the world the confidence and trust that has sometimes unfortunately also been scarce in the wood flooring sector.
Despite the fact that there are currently no Italian producers entitled to apply the Ecolabel (owing, above all, to its recent ratification), we are more than sure that we will begin to see the first Italian products for parquet, wood, laminate, and bamboo floors bearing the European daisy seal during the year that has just begun, also because when it comes to genuine products and protection of the environment, Italian industry ranks second to none.