As figures released today by the World Health Organisation (WHO) revealed the most polluted towns and cities in the UK, The Wood Recyclers’ Association has renewed its call to the industry to ensure good practice on the use of biomass fuel.

The WHO’s figures show more than 40 towns and cities in the UK are at or have exceeded air pollution limits of above 10 micrograms per cubic metre of fine particle air pollution.

This comes on the back of a story last week in which the Department for the Environment said the levels of fine particulate pollution at roadside and urban sites had risen last year for the first time in six years. Figures for the particulate PM2.5 had typically increased by 15 per cent at roadside sites and by 17 per cent at urban monitoring stations. Some of this rise has been attributed to an increase in wood burning stoves, according to the Friends of the Earth.

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The Wood Recyclers’ Association (WRA) is now renewing its call to biomass boiler and fuel suppliers to ensure only clean untreated pre-consumer waste wood or virgin wood is burnt in non-Industrial Emissions Directive (IED Chapter IV)  compliant boilers.

Andy Hill, Chair of the WRA, said the association was still waiting for the regulators  to remove inconsistencies in guidance on what grades of waste wood are acceptable for small scale Renewable Heat Incentive  (RHI) biomass boilers (non IED  compliant), something it asked for last year after discovering confusing wording used in guidance to boiler manufacturers, fuel suppliers and users. 

“Following the release of these figures, air pollution is clearly high on the agenda again,” said Andy. “It’s therefore important that we remind boiler manufacturers and fuel suppliers that they have a duty of responsibility in ensuring the advice they give is correct.”

Andy added that it’s important to recognise the part waste wood plays in the UK’s renewable energy growth strategy. 

“UK energy production will be further boosted this year by the commissioning of more large scale IED compliant boilers that will be able to safely and legally consume UK mixed waste wood which would otherwise be destined for landfill,” he said.

“In the first quarter of 2017 carbon emissions in the UK were down by 40 per cent compared to the average taken between 2009 and 2013. At the WRA we estimate waste wood biomass consumed by IED compliant facilities will contribute around one per cent to the country’s annual power consumption, around 770,000 households when the new build plants come on line later this year.”

The WRA sought clarification on the position of grades of wood permitted in non-IED boilers last year after discovering that the Environment Agency stated only clean grade A wood could be used, whilst local authority guidance allowed a mix of grade A and in certain circumstances grade B, to be used in non-IED boilers processing less than three tonnes an hour, under something known as a “B Permit”. 

Although the local authority guidance then referred to a further description of what it meant by Grade B, (i.e. offcuts from board product manufacture), the WRA said it needed to be explained more clearly as it was potentially allowing some boiler manufacturers to sell non-IED compliant boilers on the basis that mixed waste wood could be burned in them.

To ensure best practice, the WRA adopted an interim position of only recommending the use of virgin or untreated pre-consumer waste wood for small scale RHI (non-IED compliant) boilers whilst it sought clarification of the guidance from the regulator. The trade body is continuing to work with the Environment Agency, the Biomass Suppliers List and local authority representatives to look at this issue.

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