Government could restrict sale of fuels for domestic fires

Selling wet wood as a fuel for household heating could be prohibited under new plans announced by the government on Friday (17th August) to tackle particulate air pollution.

The ban is among the measures set out in a call for evidence which sets out further plans for legislation on the burning of solid fuels like wood and coal, following on from the launch of the government’s Clean Air Strategy this summer.

DEFRA says the burning of wood and coal in the home is the largest single contributor to particulate matter pollution – and has been identified by the World Health Organization (WHO) as the most damaging air pollutant.

Domestic burning contributes 38% of particulate matter pollution, compared with 16% from industrial combustion and only 12% from road transport, it is claimed.

The consultation proposes a series of measures aimed at reducing particulate matter emissions from domestic fuel combustion, including restricting the sale of wet wood for domestic burning, applying sulphur standards and smoke emission limits to all solid fuels and phasing out the sale of traditional house coal.

The government has said it will also ensure that “only the cleanest stoves” are available for sale by 2022.

Environment Minister Thérèse Coffey, said: ”Everyone has a role to play in improving the air we breathe, and reducing pollution from burning at home is a key area where we can all take action.

“While we will never be able to eliminate all particulate matter, by switching to cleaner fuels, householders can reduce the amount of harmful pollution to which they unwittingly expose themselves, their families and the environment, while still enjoying the warmth and pleasure of a fire.”

Wet wood

On wood, the consultation notes that wood with a moisture content of more than 20% typically emits a greater volume of smoke, and therefore produces more pollution. The government is keen to reduce the use of wet wood, without preventing people from seasoning their own wood at home.

Wood bought in small quantities, it is thought, is more likely to be burned immediately, and therefore the government is considering restricting the volume of wet wood that retailers can sell, in order to prevent members of the public unwittingly burning wet logs that they have bought.

Through the measures set out in the consultation, government is proposing a cut-off point for the sale of wet wood to householders set at 2m-3.

Coal

Additionally, the government is keen to see a move away from using traditional house coal towards using less polluting fuels in domestic applications by only allowing the sale of smokeless coal (or anthracite) and low sulphur manufactured solid fuel.

Plans for a standard for solid fuels with a sulphur content of below 2% and a smoke emission limit of 5g/hour to be applied nationwide also form a part of the consultation – which would extend requirements currently in place in smoke control areas, across the country.

The consultation notes: “Government intends to implement a nationwide sulphur and smoke standard through a certification process.  All solid fuel suppliers would be required apply for certification of their products as meeting a 2% sulphur limit and 5g/hr smoke test.  A clear logo would be required on all packaging showing that the product was approved. This would be supported by audit, random testing and Local Authority enforcement.”

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