Millions of households with open fires and wood-burning stoves could face curbs on their use after the government unveiled plans to clean up the UK’s air quality. Although this week’s announcement was short on detail, the environment secretary, Michael Gove, said he was ready to legislate to ensure only the “cleanest” domestic fuels would be available for sale. About 10% of UK homes (2.5 million) have an open fire or wood-burning stove. The consultation – part of the government’s 25-year plan to improve air quality – will almost certainly focus on wood burners and fires, not least because Gove says they account for 38% of damaging particulate matter in the UK. The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has already asked for powers to curb their use and other councils are understood to be looking at them. So what does it all mean for those who love cuddling up in front of their open fire or stove? Experts say the burning of wet or unseasoned wood and smoky solid fuels is the main problem. Wet wood contains moisture that creates smoke and harmful particulates when burned. Properly seasoned wood should have a moisture content of 20% or less. One politically easy measure would be to ban the sale of wood that does not have the “ready to burn” logo. This would outlaw poor-quality logs bought from garage forecourts and DIY outlets. It would also force small log providers to become “Woodsure approved”, at a cost of £300-£400. Similarly, basic coal also faces being replaced with smokeless varieties that are approved by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and produce fewer particulates. Briquettes or heat logs that have a moisture content of about 6% are likely to be more in demand. Between a quarter and a third of all of London’s particulate pollution comes from domestic fires. Although many of the headlines focused on-wood burning stoves, Bruce Allen, chief executive of Hetas, the not-for-profit body that approves fuel and install standards, says open fires produce the bigger problem. One of the newest models of stoves used to burn dry wood will produce a fraction of the particulates of an open fire burning wet logs, he says. The government has also noted this in documents, meaning open fires are most at risk. Plenty of people will not take kindly to being told they can’t use their wood burners, which, some say, may explain why Gove plans to shift any ban on to local authorities. London residents look most at risk: the mayor has already asked for extra powers to improve air quality, including measures to tackle wood/solid fuel burning. It is estimated that between a quarter and a third of all of London’s particulate pollution comes from domestic fires. In January, during a period of high air pollution, it contributed half such emissions in some areas of the capital, according to King’s College London research. Those whose stove has been approved for use in smoke control areas by Defra, or who have a clean-burning “ecodesign ready” model, would still be able to use it. About 10% of existing stoves in homes conform, it is thought.
Guardian 26th May 2018 read more »