by Geoff Royle October 25, 2021 3 min read

Time to take a reality check about stoves and air quality. We recently came across this well-considered article 'Ban wood burning stoves? I think not' by Michael Bye at Ceramic Glass. In it he perfectly and reasonably challenges some of the hysterical press and TV coverage about stoves. If you love your stove (what's not to love?) then we would urge you to take three minutes of your time to arm yourself with some facts so that you too, like MIchael, can reasonably question some of the misleading statements the next time you come across them.

Ban wood burning stoves? I think not

by Michael Bye at Ceramic Glass Limited (reproduced from Michael's Linkedin post October 2021

A recent flood of articles in the press suggesting that a ban on wood burning stoves is a necessary step to prevent air pollution, use questionable science to support their assertions, and have ‘experts’ contributing nothing more than biased opinions to the journalists who write them.

It is simply common sense that air pollution is unlikely to be caused for the most part by wood burning stoves. How can it be? Stoves are seasonal products, and so will only contribute to particulate emissions for 4-6 months of the year, at the very most. They are often used to serve one or two rooms in the house, and are unlikely to be used every day anyway. Does it sound realistic that they can be such a big polluter in this context?

And here is a thing about domestic wood burning: wood isn’t only burned in modern clean and efficient stoves. It is also burned in old appliances that are ready to be changed, it is burned on open fires, it is burned on bonfires, in chimeneas, on BBQ’s, and in pizza ovens. Do these other sources of domestic burning somehow not contribute to air pollution? Why do the press and the people they seek opinions from ignore these obvious sources of emissions, and focus exclusively on stoves?

Did you know, for example, that modern stoves emit 90% less particulate emissions than open fires, bonfires, chimeneas pizza ovens and BBQ’s? And that 70% of solid fuel burned in London alone is on open fires? Press articles never seem to mention these facts. It is always stoves that are at fault.

Another dog whistle often printed is that ‘stoves emit more pollution than HGVs’. Do they? What evidence is there for this? If you look at the top of a chimney where wood is being burned in a modern stove, there is usually nothing to see. What about the exhausts of all the millions of vehicles on the UK’s roads that operate every day of the year? Is it logical that the combined effects of all this exhaust adds-up to less emissions than from a few wood burners?

Also overlooked regarding road transport is that exhaust emissions are not the only source of emissions from vehicles. There is also the wear on tyres and brakes, which again contributes to their total daily.

Wood burning is a fantastic carbon neutral source of heat, and our climate desperately needs a reduction of carbon going into the atmosphere. With that in mind, the UK is in the process of decommissioning coal fired power stations, for example, to produce energy that is less carbon intensive. Stoves help in this process; they don’t hinder it.

But the UK also has another problem: we are running out of holes in the ground into which we can dump domestic household waste. But local councils are offering a solution to this. They are granting permission for waste management companies to incinerate thousands of tonnes of waste on a daily basis. Pure logic and common sense tell us that the impact to the environment of this strategy is entirely detrimental. Incinerating such a colossal volume of mixed waste including non-recyclable plastics will lead to awful particulate emissions. And yet stoves continue to be a target in the press when they are far from being the problem. Thankfully, the majority of the British public can see such ridiculous arguments for what they are; namely biased, wrong-headed, and attention seeking.

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