The South African Wood Preservers Association (SAWPA) has ensured the delay of South African regulations that falsely label CCA a banned substance and state that trade in the wood preservative is prohibited.
In February 2023, the Department of Forestry, Fisheries, and the Environment (DFFE) published regulations to implement the requirements of the Rotterdam Convention, a global treaty between 165 nations that provides early warning to countries about a broad range of hazardous chemicals that are traded internationally.
Annexure 1-B of these South Africa regulations list CCA as “no longer registered”, and states that trade and use of the chemical are “no longer allowed” – both of which are incorrect.
“We are pleased with the outcome of the agreement … Unfortunately, it necessitated making a submission to the Northern Gauteng High court before they (the DFFE) agreed, and our submission was withdrawn pending an amenable outcome,” said SAWPA Executive Director Bruce Breedt.
The DFFE contacted SAWPA this week to set a date for a meeting on the matter, which will be held next week.
After the publication of the regulations, Dolphin Bay held extensive discussions with our lawyers, deciding on the best strategy to address the issue. SAWPA subsequently adopted this legal approach and lodged an urgent High Court application against the DFFE.
The case would have been heard on 13 June but, as a compromise before the hearing, the DFFE agreed to postpone the implementation of the regulations for 180 days. This postponement has now been gazetted and the DFFE gave the assurance that it will work directly with the industry to resolve the matter.
The postponement has now been gazetted and the department has given the assurance that it will work directly with the industry to resolve the matter.
Bruce said SAWPA had tried to have the mistakes rectified before the regulations were published, to no avail. “During this process Dolphin Bay, fortunately, had already started getting legal advice from their chosen counsel,” he said. These lawyers assisted SAWPA and all three CCA producer members when they decided to proceed with legal action.
SAWPA agreed to postpone its court application on condition that meaningful progress in the discussions was made within a month. The industry will permanently withdraw the court application if such progress is made; if not, the application shall be lodged again.
The regulations to implement the Rotterdam Convention govern the trade in chemicals and are closely related to regulations implementing the Globally Harmonised System (GHS), which governs the classification of chemicals.
Under the GHS regulations, the use of CCA-treated timber – as well as creosote-treated timber – could be phased out. These regulations state that CCA-treated timber is toxic, again, an incorrect classification.
The Dolphin Bay Brief has written extensively about the implications of the GHS for the classification of CCA. We asked the highly respected scientists at Infotox to investigate whether CCA-treated timber is toxic. They found this not to be the case: CCA-treated timber falls well within the safety limits prescribed by the GHS.
In their report, the scientists also addressed the misconception that CCA has been banned in the US and Europe. In both areas, the use of CCA was limited voluntarily under the “precautionary principle”. CCA-treated timber is still commonly used in these countries.
Bruce commented that as an industry representative body, SAWPA “has to remain optimistic that the future will hold positives for the timber industry.
“However, this will only happen if and when the negative impacts such as poor political decisions and infrastructure, and service delivery (e.g., loadshedding) causing the current poor economic outlook are addressed, and the policy strategies contained in the Forest Master Plan are achieved.”
Commenting on the Rotterdam Convention regulations, Bertus said: “We believe that the industry was able to bridge the communications gap with the department and we trust this places us in a position to further secure the unrestricted use of CCA.
“It was a good team effort between Dolphin Bay and SAWPA. We’re operating in a very competitive industry, and it’s a compliment to the industry that competitors were able to work together when faced with an existential threat to us all, to safeguard the industry.
“We look forward to working with the department on a constructive basis, which we think is the best way forward.”