The Composite Panel Assn.’s environmental programs for panel producers and secondary processors helps to ensure competitiveness in the global arena. 

About the Programs

The Environmentally Preferable Product Program provides independent certification of “wood composite products that are demonstrably environmentally preferable through their use of recycled and/or recovered furnish and adherence to specific formaldehyde emission standards.”

According to Tom Julia, CPA president, the EPP certification program is the only green product certification program of its kind accredited by ANSI. “ANSI’s accreditation and endorsement have helped tremendously due to ANSI’s worldwide recognition,” he said. “The accreditation to strict ISO/IEC Guide 65 has ensured the program is complete and independent from undue influences and gives the program the third–party accreditation so critical in today’s demanding marketplace. Our ability to offer participants those assurances of independence and rigor has been very beneficial in encouraging participation.”

CPA adopted the Environmentally Preferable Product Specification (EPPS) in 2001. In 2006, CPA approved EPPS 2-06, which included a formaldehyde emission limit. A third iteration, to be launched in April 2008, will reflect the reduced formaldehyde levels. CPA’s Director of Certification Services oversees the EPP and Grademark Programs. CPA has two full–time field technical representatives to conduct the U.S. and Mexican site inspections and audits and select samples for testing. CPA partners with FPInnovations – Division Forintek for inspections of the Canadian region. Testing is performed at both the CPA laboratory facility in Gaithersburg, MD, and at FPInnovations.

Launched in June 2007, the EPP Downstream Program is an extension of the EPP Program, and gives consumers an easy method for identifying environmentally responsible products. Products displaying the EPP Downstream logo have been manufactured by a panel processor that has purchased at least 50 percent of EPP certified wood products. There is no cost to participate in the program.

Composite wood products can be eligible for the following LEED credits:

• Recycled content MR Credit 4.1

• Regional materials MR Credit 5.2

• Recycled content MR Credit 4.2

• Certified wood MR Credit 7

• Regional materials MR Credit 5.1

• Low-emitting material EQ Credit 4.4

Composite products used in downstream systems also are eligible for:

• Low emitting materials EQ Credit 4.5 (LEED-CI)

• Environmentally preferable MR Credit 5 products (LEED-H)

CPA EPPS 2-06 is referenced by the Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturers Assn.’s Environmental Stewardship Program and the National Association of Home Builders Model Green Home Building Guidelines. For more information on the programs, or for a complete list of participating companies, visit

Environmentally preferable products. They're what consumers want, what architects and specifiers are demanding - and what composite panel producers and downstream manufacturers can provide.

Environmentally preferable products now can be identified by the EPP and EPP Downstream labels. EPP and EPP Downstream are voluntary certification programs developed by the Composite Panel Assn., which enable panel producers and secondary manufacturers to demonstrate their commitment to making and using environmentally responsible products. CPA defines an environmentally preferable product as “one that has been third-party certified to comply with environmental criteria referenced in the U.S. EPA’s Guideline for Environmentally Preferred Purchasing.”

According to CPA President Tom Julia, the EPP took nine months to develop and included meetings with companies that could potentially comply with the EPP requirements, as well as other associations and industries. Input from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency about definitions, such as recycled and residual, helped ensure that the program CPA brought forward was both credible and verifiable, Julia said.

“For many years CPA has operated the largest and most rigorous product testing and certification program for composite panel products in North America — the CPA Grademark Program. As ‘green’ considerations became increasingly important to specifiers and customers in the late 1990s, CPA recognized that an inherent green benefit of using composite panel products was receiving little recognition, even by our own certification program,” he said.

“Following consultation with members, customers, other certifying agencies and The Home Depot, CPA determined that an appropriate response mechanism was to develop a new certification program that would be managed through the Grademark Program and based on an approach promulgated by U.S. Executive Order and advanced by the U.S. EPA. This certification program would not only include formaldehyde emission requirements, but also raw material requirements, i.e., a requirement of using 100 percent recycled or residual content in order to be certified,” Julia added.

CPA membership is not a requirement for participating in the program. However, Julia said, “We do analyze whether a mill’s formaldehyde certification program is accredited and meets the requirements of the EPP program before we will issue a certification.”

Currently, 46 mills participate in the EPP program, representing 21 panel producing companies. According to CPA, this number represents 48 percent of the of the North American composite panel industry. (For a list of companies, see sidebar page 59.)

CPA’s EPP panel certification program is accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) in accordance with ISO/IEC Guide 65 for product certification programs. The program also is referenced by the Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturers Assn.’s Environmental Stewardship Program (ESP) and the National Association of Home Builders Model Green Building Guidelines.

“The response to our EPP program has been excellent,” Julia said. “The initial specification was one of the first in the industry to offer certification for 100 percent recycled and recovered raw materials and involve quarterly on–site audits. The second iteration in 2006 added a formaldehyde emission limit which further strengthened the program and increased the number of participants. The third iteration, which will be launched in the spring of 2008, will further reduce the formaldehyde levels.”

Growing Demand Drives Participation

“Our participation [in both the EPP and EPP Downstream Programs] was prompted by two factors: Uniboard`s concern to market green and responsible products, and requests from our customers,” said Luc Potvin, vice president of marketing for Uniboard Canada. All of the company’s product lines are certified.

“Our decision was driven by our overall environmental leadership program,” said Roger Rutan, vice president, marketing and business development for Timber Products Co. “Customer requests played a part, as did the requirements of the KCMA ESP.”

“We have customers pleased to see us certified as it fits their company’s requirements for an environmentally responsible product,” said Steve Stoler, sales manager for Boise Cascade Corp. “Others need an EPP certified product to comply with the KCMA’s new [ESP] certification program.”

“The main reason for [participating] was interest from the kitchen cabinet industry,” agreed Phillip Hursey, quality manager for Unilin US MDF.

Although changes were needed for many of the companies to receive certification, those too had unexpected benefits. For example, Rutan said, Timber Products made changes to its fiber sourcing for certification. “The process helped us find new sources for recycled material and to think differently about our overall fiber needs and resources,” he said.

“Our fiber has always been 100 percent recycled or reclaimed, so the only changes were small process changes for the lower formaldehyde emissions,” Stoler said.

Both Unilin and Great Lakes MDF also made changes to their resin recipe in order to meet the lower formaldehyde emission requirements. In the case of Great Lakes MDF, said David Smith, the company switched to a PF resin system prior to earning EPP certification of its Cleantech products, “We had many customers asking for a zero formaldehyde product. We went with the EPP program to certify that product.”

In order to promote the company’s participation in the environmental certification program, Smith said Great Lakes MDF will use the EPP logo on ads, literature, its Web site and trade show booths.

Potvin said Uniboard also is promoting participation in both the EPP and EPP Downstream Programs “by adding the logo to all our literature and packaging. Furthermore,” he said, “we developed Nu Green, a no formaldehyde added panel that secures LEED points via the EPP certification. This is part of our publicity program. The response from customers has been positive.”

Rutan concurred. “The response has been what we expected. We didn’t expect a round of applause, but our customers are pleased to know that we have gone through this process and have the certification when required by their customers,” he said.

According to Julia, “Most participating panel manufacturers are using the EPP certification as their main tool to market products to those customers concerned about a product’s environmental impact. Some manufacturers are certifying all of their production to the EPP specifications and marketing their particleboard, MDF or hardboard as environmentally preferable to competing materials. Other companies are using the certification on specific product lines to advertise the environmental aspects of niche products or to respond to specific customer requests.”

Downstream Effect

To establish the link between certified EPP panels and the end consumer, CPA launched the EPP Downstream Program in June 2007. To date, there are 14 participants in the program.

“The Downstream Program is a natural extension of the EPP panel program and allows value–added manufacturers that purchase EPP certified material to promote their environmental responsibility,” said Julia. “Any downstream manufacturer that purchases at least 50 percent EPP certified composite wood products is eligible to participate in this no-cost program.”

“As active members of the CPA and KCMA trade organizations, we felt compelled to support the green initiatives that they took on as good stewards of the environment,” said Randy Joseph, vice president of sales for Laminate Technologies Inc.

Julia added, “By giving downstream manufacturers a way to differentiate themselves in the marketplace and demonstrate their environmental responsibility, we are giving them a tool they can use to reach environmentally conscious consumers and help those consumers identify responsible products in a crowded marketplace.”

Like the panel producers, downstream manufacturers say they will use Web sites, press releases and trade shows as forums to promote their environmental stewardship. “We will be promoting our certification through product labeling, sale literature, trade shows, etc. Currently we have not had a lot of interest, but I feel confident that this program will gain popularity in the near future,” Joseph said.

“We did not have to implement any changes to become EPP Downstream compliant,” he added. “It was more documentation then changing any existing product or process.” According to Joseph, the company plans to have all its product lines certified through the EPP Downstream program.

On the Horizon

According to CPA, plans are already underway to launch the third iteration of the program in April 2008, when the formaldehyde levels move to match the CARB Phase I limits. “This action, a full nine months before the California regulation takes effect, demonstrates CPA’s commitment to keep this program ahead of the environmental curve. As the CARB regulation phases in completely over the next 4 years, the requirements of the EPP program will be reexamined to determine whether additional changes may be necessary,” Julia said.

“When the new EPP program takes effect next April, we anticipate an increase in participation in currently enrolled mill capacity and in mills that historically may not have used a third–party certification. This increased participation is anticipated as companies seek ways to demonstrate compliance with the CARB levels to their customers,” he added.

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