It is very sad and slightly depressing reading articles that continue to grace the pages of even our top newspapers around the subject of Woodfuel.

Last week saw the confirmation that Woodsure have been appointed by Defra to run the Ready to Burn certification scheme that will underpin the The Air Quality (Domestic Solid Fuels Standards) (England) Regulations 2020 that will come into force in England from 1 May 2021 for most woodfuel suppliers. https://www.gov.uk/guidance/selling-wood-for-domestic-use-in-england.

From May 2021, where wood is sold in volumes under 2m3 for combustion in domestic properties the packaging must include the supplier’s name, the certification number and the Ready to Burn logo as identified in the regulations, proving that the wood has a moisture content of no more than 20%.

Smaller suppliers, those who supply less than 600m3 a year, will have an extra year to prepare for the regulations until May 2022. This allows for the areas where longer seasoning is required, and for them to adapt their processes and experiment with new and different ways to improve their product.

Further details of the regulations and the Woodsure Ready to Burn Scheme can be located on their website.

However, the press coverage, rather than focusing on the way that the sector had worked together both within the fuel supply chain and stove manufactures to address the issues around supplying and burning wet poor quality wood, ran with hugely negative headlines such as the recent Times article (16 February 2021) ‘Woodburning stoves drive up most dangerous air pollution’.

Across this and wider coverage there was little recognition of all of the benefits of woodfuel, not the transformative impact that improving markets have had in bringing woodlands back into productive management and substituting less sustainable fossil fuels.

 
In our articles back in 2017,
we highlighted the ways that using wood as a fuel, and the woodland management it supports, can bring huge and sustainable environmental benefits, for example:-
  • Improved forest management;
  • Carbon sequestration;
  • Health and wellbeing;
  • Biodiversity;
  • Shelter and shade; and
  • Landscape.

Effectively managed trees and woodlands will also help to capture airborne pollutants.

We need to ensure that these are well recognised and promoted in conjunction with ensuring those now installing stoves and burning wood, many for the first time, are educated to understand that the pollution issues can be largely negated through good fuel management and burning practices.
 
Vincent Thurkettle, in his fantastic book on woodfuel, compares adopting woodland as a fuel to getting a new pet.  It is more than just a simple choice of ‘Fuel A’ or ‘Fuel B’ and more a lifestyle choice; one that can give endless pleasure and joy.
 
In essence the messages as set out in our article in Dec 2107 are still as valid and important as they were then and are now being backed up through legislation.
  • Always burn good quality fuel that is dry and ready to burn;
  • Ensure that if you do harvest green wood that it is correctly seasoned, ideally for two years, before it is burnt;
  • Service and maintain your fire or stove to ensure that it works as efficiently as possible; and
  • Keep your flue and chimney well swept to maximise efficiency.

There is nothing like relaxing next to a wood fire and it is vital to remember and promote that when wood is used well and as it should be, the benefits far outweigh the pollution risks posed through poor preparation and management of one of our truly sustainable fuel sources.

 

Biblography: Thurkettle, V. (2012). The Wood Fire Handbook: the complete guide to a perfect fire. London: Octopus Publishing Group Limited.

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