Steel shot and forestry

Steel shot and forestry

On 16 December 2020, Finnish Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Teuvo Hakkarainen of the Identity and Democracy Group posed a written parliamentary question to the European Commission:

“Lead shot is to be banned over wide areas in EU wetlands (in Finland’s case, the whole country in practice), and it is proposed to replace it with steel shot. The use of steel shot will mean sawing timber will be rejected in the wood processing industry by the time it reaches the sawmill, and valuable, old lumber containing steel shot will have to be taken to a combustion plant. Being soft material, lead shot contained in timber passes through the machinery used by the sawmill industry without damaging the blades.

1. Is the Commission aware of the fact that steel shot causes sawing timber to be rejected by the wood processing industry?

2. Is the Commission aware of the fact that the ban on lead shot may add to the industry’s costs, result in timber being wasted and make it necessary to fell more trees?

3. What does the Commission intend to do to ensure that the senseless ban on lead shot could be subjected to more in-depth social scrutiny and to allow the Member States to decide on the matter, in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity?”

On 25 January 2021, Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton responded on behalf of the European Commission stating: “in its work investigating the need for a possible restriction of lead gunshot in wetlands (Annex XV dossier), the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) assessed the possibility that steel gunshot (the most common alternative to lead gunshot) would have negative impacts on forestry due to the risk of damage to the machinery of the veneer and sawing industry. ECHA concluded that there is no evidence of negative impacts on this industry.

Information received in the public consultation on the SEAC draft opinion indicated that impacts of using steel gunshot in the Danish forestry sector have been minor.

This is further confirmed by the fact that, in Finland, the Finnish State Forestry Agency recently revoked all restrictions to the use of steel gunshot. Moreover, it should be considered that, in cases where steel gunshot is considered not appropriate, other alternatives (as the use of the softer bismuth or tungsten shot) are available.

The restriction of lead gunshot used in or around wetland will prevent the death of around 1 million waterbirds every year. Acting at EU level will ensure an adequate and equal level of protection to waterbirds as they migrate across borders within the EU and will honour the Union’s commitments under the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds.

The restriction was supported by a large majority of Member States in a vote in the REACH Committee. In addition, neither the European Parliament nor the Council objected to the proposal during their scrutiny period. Consequently, the Commission is proceeding with the adoption of the restriction and is expected to publish it in the Official Journal in the first trimester of 2021.”


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