I was shocked to see the small lorry parked across the pavement. Two men were lowering the back flap and loosening a large white sack so they could push the logs out of it directly into my neighbour’s side path.
I stood by watching, unable to pass. I think they thought I was simply waiting politely until they had finished. It was pouring with rain and uncomfortable to wait. The last logs tumbled off onto the pile.
You need a certificate
“Have you got a certificate to sell logs?” I asked.
The driver, a middle-aged man with bloodshot eyes, looked surprised.
“I don’t need a certificate.”
“I think you do.”
He drove off with a shrug.
The buyer of the logs came out of his house.
“I don’t think you should be buying logs like this,” I said. “You need a certificate.”
He looked surprised.
“I have a certificate,” he said.
“Then, can I see it, please?”
“No – ahum…”
“You know there has been recent regulation of log-burning. The Chief Medical Officer has pointed out that wood-burning stoves are 450 times more polluting than gas-fired central heating. I am a heart patient, and particulates like PM2.5 threaten my health.”
“There aren’t any particulates in this wood.”
“How do you know?”
“Because … because it is … natural.”
“That’s not a very scientific answer,” I retorted, as he retreated inside his house. ”Nor kind to neighbours like myself.”
Should you speak up?
Do you think this is a fair interaction with a neighbour? Should anyone be calling out individuals who are going against government regulations? These Regulations may be cited as the Air Quality (Domestic Solid Fuels Standards) (England) Regulations 2020, and they came into force in May 2021.
It is cold and wet at this time of year. Many people are concerned about keeping warm. There are probably many in the suburbs of Kent and Surrey who still have old wood stoves (which emit 3700 more PM2.5 than the newer ones). Many may also have newer stoves. Naturally, they want to get prepared for Christmas by stocking up on logs. See the article in Kent and Surrey Bylines two years ago. It is seasonal; it features on Christmas cards. But, should we have more sympathy with these log-addicted people than with the children who get asthma?
The law is quite difficult to discover. Kent County Council is the responsible body, but they have made no attempt to publicise the new regulations since 2021. I can understand that in the shires, where wood is plentiful in large gardens, there is a reluctance to act on this. In fact, there is no need, as people who live in the country and cut their own wood, usually understand how to dry that wood for domestic burning. It depends on many variables as Brian Yankee on Quora states:
“The wood species, the form of the wood (ie sawn lumber or log), the size of the pieces, the local environment, storage conditions, how it’s stacked and how wet it was when it was cut all affect the rate of drying. The traditional rule of thumb for air-drying rough-cut lumber is to allow one year of drying time per inch (25 mm) of wood thickness. This assumes that the lumber is stacked properly outdoors but under some sort of shelter.”Brian Yankee on Quora
Before wood is used for burning, the moisture content should be reduced to 20%. But many townies and people who have always lived in the suburbs do not know this.
There are two sides to the regulation: the sellers and the buyers. There was an exemption of one year for small foresters, but now all sellers of quantities of 2 m3 or less must label their wood with the following words, as regulation 8:
Form of words in respect of wood sold in volumes of two cubic metres or more.
This wood is not suitable for burning until it has been dried. You should not burn wood until it has a moisture content of 20% or less.
Wet wood contains moisture which creates smoke and harmful particulates when burned. As well as being harmful to your health and the environment, this can damage your stove and chimney and is an inefficient way to heat your home. Dry it in a sunny, well-aired space for at least two years, keeping rain off in the winter.
Radial cracks and bark that come off easily suggest wood that is ready for burning. Test the wood when you think it is ready for burning, ideally with a moisture meter. First, calibrate the meter and then measure a freshly split surface to get the best readiness.”
So, the Government is trying to teach/train consumers about wood-burning.
The same 2021 regulations set up a wood certification body and a system so that any firm intending to be a supplier of wood must send a sample to this body and get a certificate. On achieving the certificate, which proves the supplier knows how to season wood, their wood for sale must bear the label “Ready to Burn.”
Lidl is also selling pallets of domestic logs this month. I could not see this “Ready to Burn” label on it. The wood is labelled “Produced in Europe”, and “Wood from responsible sources.” It has the FSC logo (which is about responsible forestry) but there is no label “Ready to burn” as there should be.
The introduction states: “Wood for domestic use can only be sold in quantities of less than 2 m3 if it has been certified under the Ready to Burn scheme.” However, when the reader gets down to the section on wood, the first paragraph refers only to areas which have been designated “Smoke-free zones” (most of Kent and Surrey have not!), so for dealers looking for excuses, there could be loopholes here.
Time for KCC to get serious about air quality, I suggest. But when they are cutting costs on everything, it is not likely they will pay for more enforcement. So, it is up to alert citizens to spread the word. The logs are still there getting wetter in this rain. I wonder if the new buyer knows how to store them to dry them out.