Date posted: 24.02.23

The cost of living is causing problems for many as winter progresses and cold weather is still here. This isn’t a problem confined to the UK either. It’s been reported that people are opting to burn anything to keep warm during these desperate times. This is a recipe for disaster for several reasons.

1. It’s not efficient. It’s easy to say, ‘only burn seasoned wood‘. But if you have a stark choice between going cold or burning some rubbish, or something else, totally unsuitable to keep warm, we understand the position people can be in. However, here lies the problem. Burning rubbish or other unsuitable items to keep warm is, more often than not, incredibly inefficient. It will produce a poor heat output. So your efforts to stay warm are very much wasted.

2. It can be deadly. When you burn household rubbish, you release deadly toxins into the atmosphere. These include fine particles, dioxins, VOCs (volatile organise compounds), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). These have been linked to heart disease, cancers and other illnesses.

3. It congests. When you burn things like household rubbish, plastic, unseasoned wood, furniture etc it creates congestion in the flue. This significantly increases the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning and chimney fires.

4. It pollutes. It’s not only deadly for the people who are burning the rubbish in the immediate vicinity, you’re also making a huge contribution to pollution on a larger scale. In poor countries, the burning of rubbish is directly linked to increased air pollution and all the associated problems this brings, such as increases in respiratory illnesses, cancers and general poor health.

With the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and the issues with gas supply, firewood has doubled in some European regions as the need to stay warm grows. This is one reason why people are resorting to burning rubbish. It’s sometimes down to pure desperation and not lack of awareness, which casts a very sad picture. There is a real sense of poverty and desperation in some poorer European countries as winter closes in.

People should not be forced into a position to choose between heating their homes or harming their health to keep warm. Support is needed!

Tips to Burn Better:

1. Use seasoned wood only, ideally with a moisture content of no more than 20%.
2. Top Down Method – Put kindling on top of the larger logs when starting a fire. It’s more efficient and causes less pollution.
3. Keep a fire hot – keeping a fire hot and not “running down” what you have is a good idea. When a fire is hot, it’s efficient. Letting it use up the firewood before adding more will ultimately use more fuel, so try to avoid this.
4. Use an efficient stove – An Ecodesign stove is best. It’s hugely more efficient than an open fire or outdated stove, which does not use Ecodesign technology.

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