Forestry: The hidden costs of cheap raw materials
The importation of illegally-logged timbers is unethical and also threatens Irish jobs
The economy is apparently starting to recover, or so we're told. Positive reports from a number of different sectors are starting to lift the spirits and there appear to be enough of these reports to confirm this isn't a false dawn.
Certainly the construction sector seems to be moving slowly in the right direction. Hopefully we've learned some valuable lessons from the so-called boom.
Provided we don't fall victim to the same madness that prevailed before the crash a buoyant construction industry will be good for us all, and not least the forestry sector.
It should be remembered that during the boom we imported a great deal of timber. To our great discredit, according to the World Wildlife Fund's Annual Government Barometer Survey, during this period Ireland had the worst record in the EU as an importer of illegally logged timber, in addition to timber from controversial sources.
While imports fell off during the recession, let's hope that now the economy is recovering there won't be a return to the bad old ways.
A common and very disturbing, sight during the building boom, even on public sector construction sites, was the vast amount of Chinese-manufactured plywood used as hoarding. In 2007-8 we imported 150,000 cubic metres of this material, which equates to a stack 10m wide by five high by three kilometres long.
On one occasion Tom Roche of Just Forests, who was instrumental in initiating the first forest certification standard setting process in Ireland, was so incensed by this widespread practice that he obtained samples of plywood from the site of the new civic offices in Mullingar and sent them to a university in Germany for independent analysis.
Here they were found to contain the illegally logged timbers of two species of Indonesian tree high on the endangered species list.