England Changes Law on Burning Wet Wood and Coal

Hopefully we won’t need to be thinking of having fires for much longer this year, but did you know that the laws have changed over the burning of wood?

In England new restrictions on burning coal and wood mean that anyone with a stove or open fire must burn cleaner alternatives. These forms of heating create small pollution particles which can enter the bloodstream to lodge in organs of the body, and they are now the biggest source of these particles which are the most damaging to health in the UK.

You can read more about the government data here.

Cut log pile

Suppliers can only sell wood fuel in volumes of less than 2 cubic metres if it is certified as “Ready to Burn”. This confirms it has a moisture content of 20% or less. This applies to firewood and wood briquettes.

Suppliers of volumes greater than 2m cubed of wet wood, also called green wood or unseasoned wood, has to be sold with advice on how to dry it before burning, and purchasers must follow these guidelines or risk fines.

Makers of solid fuels need to demonstrate their products have a very low sulphur content and only emit a small amount of smoke.

What is Wet Firewood?

Wet wood was often sold in nets and was cheaper to buy, but it contains moisture which, when burned, creates more smoke and harmful particles of air pollution (PM2.5) than dry wood.

Wet wood can also cause more damage chimneys by allowing tar and soot to build up.

Dry or seasoned wood, often called kiln-dried wood has a moisture content of 20% or less. If sold in smaller quantities (less than 2 M cubed) then it should display the Ready to Burn logo, certification number and supplier or manufacturer details to comply with the new regulations.

Fines for sellers

If you sell logs and firewood you could be fined if:

  • You sell unauthorised fuel
  • You’ve stored fuel so it has a moisture content of more than 20%
  • The fuel does not have the “Ready to Burn” logo or is not labelled correctly

Fines could involve a £300 fixed penalty fine issued by the local authority or even more than £300 depending on the severity of the offence issued by the courts.

Currently these regulations don’t cover Wales or Scotland, but they are also considering similar changes to the law.

Regulations on Coal and “Smokeless” Fuels

All suppliers, distributors and retailers can continue to sell these “smokeless” fuels:

  • anthracite coal
  • semi-anthracite coal
  • low volatile steam coal

Only registered coal merchants who are members of the Approved Coal Merchants scheme can legally sell traditional house coal (also known as bituminous coal) in England from 1 May 2021 up to 30 April 2023. Sales of traditional house coal for use in homes will be illegal in England from 1 May 2023.

Traditional house coal must be sold loose or in unsealed bags directly to the customer. It is now illegal to sell bagged coal.

Traditional house coal is not approved for use in smoke control areas in England unless it is used in an appropriate exempt appliance.

This marks the latest step in the government’s Clean Air Strategy, says environment minister Rebecca Pow.

Burning cleaner fuels is a more efficient option for households across England, helping reduce our exposure to this incredibly harmful pollutant and benefitting the environment

The move was welcomed by Harriet Edwards, the senior air quality policy adviser for Asthma UK and the British Lung Foundation, who warned that air pollution is particularly harmful to people with lung conditions such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

It can put them at risk of suffering potentially life-threatening asthma attacks or flare-up

Other lung experts believe that it is only a matter of time before all log burners and other fires are banned in built-up areas.

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