Half of all UK consumers are unaware that they are contributing to deforestation and climate change by buying illegally sourced timber and wood products, a survey reveals.
The EU recently introduced a ban on illegal logging due to come into effect in 2012 ensuring that companies importing timber must provide legal documentation on all products and their countries of origin.
However, a survey commissioned by WWF and undertaken by market researchers TNS, found that currently just 7.5 per cent of local authorities in the UK have a timber procurement policy.
The public remains unaware of this fact though with half saying they ‘presumed that buying in the UK meant it was from a legal source’. According to WWF, the UK is the fourth largest importer of illegal timber with consumers spending £700m a year on products such as outdoor furniture made from illegal sourced wood supplies.
Two-thirds of those questioned believed that local authorities should commit to sustainable purchasing.
'If people buy any wood or paper products that aren’t certified then they could, unwittingly, be helping to fuel illegal and unsustainable logging activities across the globe,' said Colin Butfield, head of campaigns at WWF UK.
Consumers can however ensure that what they are buying is ethically harvested if they search for the Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC) logo which guarantees well-sourced products.
The survey, conducted in conjunction with WWF’s 'What Wood You Choose?’ campaign, revealed that three quarters of those questioned believed their purchases could make a difference to those in developing countries even though only 28 per cent had heard of the FSC.
Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) campaigner Faith Doherty believes that it is not up to the consumer but the supplier to provide information on product origin.
'The situation is that we consume illegally sourced timber whether the EU law is there or not. It is up to the trade to provide information and say where the source has come from,' Doherty said.
'I think its time for the paper and print industry to step up. They’ve gotten away with it for too long and they should stop hiding behind it,' said Doherty.
Despite a UK pledge to bring in legislation on illegal logging, Secretary of state for the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), Caroline Spelman, told MPs this week that this won’t be implemented for another 18 months at least.
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