Make PM2.5 Compliance a Priority This Winter - What the Law Expects of Retailers

The actions recommended by Defra’s Clean Air Strategy will now become legally binding in England as from May 1, 2021, with legislation having been passed by parliament in November 2020.  Scotland and Wales are currently determining their own strategies.

Winter 2020 will, therefore, be the last season in which English retailers will be able to sell wood and coal in the way in which they have done in the past.  It is also an opportunity for them to fully understand the changes, as they will soon find themselves on the front-line, explaining these new retail regulations to customers.

The new rules are good news for the environment and have, at their heart, PM2.5 - the world’s most damaging air pollutant according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).  This particulate is harmful to both air quality and health and is caused by many issues including diesel petrol engines, gas boilers and the burning of wet wood and coal in woodburners and stoves.

Wet Wood

The heart of the PM2.5 issue, so far as wood is concerned, is the burning of wet wood, which has been a widespread practice. The composition of wet wood is 60-90% water, making it burn inefficiently, producing pollutants and tars.  Recognising it is the burning of wet wood, rather than wood per se, that is the issue, Defra has put restrictions on wet wood sales. Such wood will not be available for purchase in smaller amounts, as from May 1, 2021, only in quantities required by those prepared to season it for some considerable time.

From that date, it will be illegal to sell wood to domestic customers in volumes under 2m3, unless it has a moisture content not exceeding 20%.  Additionally, and most importantly, the wood on sale must also carry the ‘Ready to Burn’ Woodsure logo. Retailers should also keep their wood dry, to ensure the moisture content is not affected.

If retailers sell wood in volumes above 2m3, they must provide customers with instructions – in the form of a ‘notice’ - on how to season the wood and not burn it until fully seasoned.  These new retail laws must be adhered to.


The sale of traditional house coal is being phased out in England.  After April 2021, it can only be delivered loose to customers by members of the Approved Coal Merchants Scheme (ACMS) and only to premises that are not subject to Clean Air Regulations.  This can only continue to April 2023 and then a total ban will apply.

Approved merchants can supply pre-packed bags of coal, but these must be slit open and tipped into a bunker, or slit open and left in a suitable place, such as a shed or greenhouse.  Such pre-packed bags must most definitely not be delivered and left unopened, even if that is the customer’s desire.

After April 2021, sales of pre-packed coal will be banned completely in England. Sales and deliveries of high-sulphur briquettes will also be completely banned from this date.

Making compliance easier

By working with highly accredited wood and solid fuel supplier, WARMA Home Fuels & Logs Direct, which have been part of the Government’s consultative process, stockists have been able to make things easier for themselves.  The products supplied are fully compliant and, when it comes to wood, there is an easy way to prove this, as the products carry the ‘Woodsure’ mark, signifying that the wood is ‘ready to burn.’  It takes WARMA 11 days to dry wood to this degree, in high-temperature kilns operating at over 100°C, demonstrating how much drying is required, to make wood ready to burn.

Customer benefits

As well as tackling pollution and delivering enhanced health benefits, the new regulations will enable customers to make better woodburning choices, choosing wood and coal that is fit for purpose, which will not damage their woodburner or multi-fuel appliance, and which will also not create the creosote deposits that could lead to a chimney fire.  They will generate more heat from their fuel and use less, as one ready-to-burn log does the job of three wet ones. Their homes will be free of spitting logs and acrid smoke, and those switching to manufactured solid fuels will find it cheaper to burn than coal, due to its better heat efficiency.

If you have any questions about the new regulations or how best to advise customers, please call Logs Direct on 01524 812476.

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