Spike in wood burning sales fuel UK air pollution fears

Log sellers are reporting a 60% jump in year-on-year demand as British households look for alternatives to gas central heating, with potentially catastrophic results. 

Sales of firewood are booming thanks to widespread anxiety over the soaring cost of energy and resulting attempts to find alternatives to costs gas and electricity.

focus photography of wood burning

According to The Independent, log sellers in Britain have reported a 60% jump in demand compared with the same time last year, with new customers making orders on a daily basis. This points to a significant uptick in the use of domestic wood burning stoves well ahead of the winter months, at which point the need to heat homes is at its greatest, and household energy bills are set to increase by an average of 80% following the announcement of a higher price cap coming into effect from 1st October. 

However, although the increase in demand for firewood is understandable, the impact on local and national air quality cause by a sudden spike in the use of wood burners could be significant. Stoves that use solid fuels are known to emit high levels of PM2.5, with one study in London suggesting between 23 and 31% of this particulate matter pollution in the capital resulted from wood burning, despite most of the city – and large swathes of the UK – being classed as Smoke Controlled Areas since 1956.

This categorisation prevents people from emitting smoke from a chimney other than in very specific circumstances, including burning smokeless fuel. Nevertheless, in the five years to 2021 councils in Britain’s biggest metropolis had issued zero fines for illegal wood burning. Elsewhere in the country, policymakers in Wales announced in 2019 that wood burners and bonfires were being targeted in Clean Air Plan proposals due to the public health risk. 

Image credit: Tim Bish



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Public Sector News Network
Public Sector News Network
1 year ago

Hi Chris
Thanks for your comment. I am presuming that you are a regular reader of AQN and as such you will be aware that we have covered the topic of wood burning in great detail over the past several years including in-depth articles and comment from the British Lung Foundation. We have also reported upon the wood burner debate countless times. We also focus much of our content on air quality monitoring and reporting structures and have investigated the DEFRA system under a freedom of information request.
An important part of the debate is also the impact of the unprecedented increases in utility costs on all parts of society, but in particular low income families who are often faced with difficult choices when heating a home.
Rest assured – Air Quality News will continue to be at the forefront of reporting upon wood burning and the impacts on health.
David Harrison

1 year ago

Thank you. Can we know what you found out, please, when you made that Freedom of Information Request to Defra? What exactly did you ask and what was the reply?

1 year ago

Is this really all you can say “Impact on local and national air quality …. could be significant”? What do you mean by “significant”? As Air Quality News is usually, and correctly, very concerned about the effects of air pollution on human health, I am disappointed you did not say far more on this topic today. Why no comments from medical and environmental experts on the strong likelihood that wood smoke pollution is all set to increase across the UK this winter? If we are to experience more wood burning, much of it will not be “clean” or “dry”. We all ought to be worried. Will Defra and local authorities be monitoring the air more closely? Do you know? Will the public be told if our air quality deteriorates? Will the very dirty wood burners be banned? I am surprised there is no sense of urgency or dismay in this report. But thank you for telling us about the prospect.

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