When the DEFRA Clean Air Strategy was released two years ago, there was a lot of confusion and panic that log burners were going to be banned or that owners were going to be forced to pay thousands to have their stoves modified,
The good news is that no, log burners aren't being banned, but there will be some changes.
The strategy is coming into law in May 2021, so we’ve broken down what it actually says and what’s going to change.
Who is DEFRA and what is the Clean Air Strategy?
DEFRA stands for the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and it's the UK government department responsible for safeguarding our natural environment.
In 2019, DEFRA published their Clean Air Strategy to list how they plan to tackle air pollution, and specifically to cut down on the amount of harmful particulate matter in the air we breathe.
Why is it necessary?
Particulate matter can cause health problems like asthma and heart disease so it’s important to keep levels low. Smoke caused by burning wood contains PM and in general, the more smoke your fire emits, the higher the levels of PM.
The latest government figures suggest that 38% of the PM in our atmosphere is from domestic wood burning. This figure is disputed by the industry as it’s based on questionable data, but whatever the real number, if we’re burning wood, we should be trying to reduce the amount of particulate matter we’re sending into the atmosphere.
So what’s likely to change?
If you already own a log burner or open fireplace and buy properly dried wood, not much!
There are already regulations in Smoke Controlled Areas which say that wood can only be burnt in DEFRA Smoke Control Exempt Appliances. These look like normal wood burners but have an internal mechanism to prevent the flow of air to the fire being stopped completely, which prevents the fire smouldering and producing too much smoke.
From 2022, all new stoves sold in England will have to meet the same standards, which is great for anyone thinking about buying one. They’re less smoky and your fuel burns more efficiently so you use less of it. Don’t worry if you already own a log burner or open fireplace though, there aren’t any plans to force you to upgrade or change your model (at the moment!).
There are also changes to the type of wood that can be sold, in the hope of preventing the most polluting fuels from being burned. We talk a lot about why you should only burn properly dry wood, so if you want more detail check out our blog post here. If that looks like too much reading, here’s a handy infographic from the DEFRA report.
From May 2021, wet wood can't be sold in quantities smaller than 2 cubic metres. At the moment, plenty of garden centres sell bags of wet wood which needs to be seasoned for 1-2 years before use. The reality is that most people don’t do that and burn (or attempt to burn) the wet wood. The wet wood doesn’t burn well and emits a lot of smoke and therefore a lot of PM.
Customers with lots of space who want to buy more than 2 cubic metres to season at home will still be able to do so.
If you’re already buying kiln-dried or properly seasoned wood that’s Woodsure certified, you’re doing a great job – keep it up!
If you want to learn more you can read the complete DEFRA Clean Air Strategy here