Worktop Express Blog > Protecting Forests: Panorama and the Illegal Timber Trade

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Here at Worktop Express®, we’re passionate about wood in all forms. We strongly believe that this wonderful natural material can be protected and yet enjoyed by us all if the right practices are implemented and adhered to. This is why we have always sourced our timber carefully, choosing and maintaining close links with reputable suppliers who adhere to all legislation and environmental guidelines.

This is also why we were particularly interested to view the recent Panorama programme ‘Jungle Outlaws: The Chainsaw Trail’, a documentary covering reporter Raphael Rowe’s investigation into illegal logging in the Congo – and the impact of the recently introduced EUTR.

The Congo rainforests are a rich resource for tropical plantlife, but sadly these are being exploited: during his investigation Raphael Rowe came across whole sections of forest which had been cleared to make way for lorries to transport just a few trees. As a local civil society organiser commented, ‘The forestry companies that are exploiting the south do not respect the law and regulations of our country. There is no planning and the forests are managed chaotically and illegally.’

Rowe lamented the huge amount of waste involved: not only are trees simply destroyed rather than being logged and made use of, these valuable exotic trees are largely unrecognisable once the manufacturing process has begun. Rather than being well treated and proudly displayed as kitchen furniture or worktops – celebrating the timber’s unique natural qualities – the vast majority are thinned down, processed with other woods, and turned into plywood.

Most important of all, the EUTR is simply not being complied with as it should; in fact Rowe was able to track illegally harvested timber into Europe, pinpointing a European supplier he implied was dealing in such timber. To practice as such would be in strict contravention of the European Timber Regulation.

In essence, the EUTR demands that all those who supply or trade in timber products take responsibility for the chain of custody. For traders (like Worktop Express®) stringent records must now be kept (however we have always kept such records, and more) and for operators (those who import the timber), due diligence must be exercised to ensure that the timber has been logged in a legal manner. This can necessitate an exploration by the operator into the source of the timber. It is not enough to simply accept the documentation provided; as Brad Mulley of the Forests Monitor commented on the programme, an ‘indepth investigation’ may need to be carried out to ‘assess and mitigate risk’.

It is a terrible shame that there are still operators and traders who would continue to utilise illegally harvested timber, and we sincerely hope that the EUTR goes some way to combatting this issue. However the good news is that there are reputable traders out there – like Worktop Express® – who have always placed sustainability and legality above all else when it comes to purchasing timber. Moreover, we make it a priority to be transparent and open about our policies: please view our Environmental Page or recent EUTR Nutshell Guide for more information on our practices.

The work of reporters like Raphael Rowe is crucial in raising awareness. We can only hope that their continued efforts and regular improvements to legislation will eventually mean that there is only one type of timber product on the market: legal, sustainable, and responsible.

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