Belgians not able to do without their wood-burning stoves
Even though the Flemish Environment Agency (Vlaamse Milieu Maatschappij) warns about the danger of wood-burning, especially on days when there already is an air pollution alarm, wood-burning stoves are selling like hotcakes. But even the modern ones with all kinds of filters on it, are emitting 40 times more polluting particles than gas heating.
“People are attached to them”, says business manager Michel Dutry from Dutry & Co, trading in heating quipment, “because they like watching the flames.”
Year after year VMM’s studies, however, show alarming results: households with a wood-burning stove represent the largest part – 36 per cent – of fine particle emissions in Flanders, against 21% for all transport and traffic, and 16% for the industry.
With her plans for a ‘Green Deal’ Minister for Environment Joke Schauvliege (CD&V) wants to stimulate owners of an old polluting wood-burning stove to buy a less polluting new one with an incentive bonus as compensation.
For Flemish member of Parliament Wilfried Vandaele (N-VA) this measure is not good enough. “Besides, people not having a wood-burning stove and thus not polluting that much, will not receive any bonus at all. This doesn’t seem fair to me.”
He realizes that a ban on the use of wood-burning stoves is unrealistic in Flanders but “maybe we should consider the introduction of special filters reducing the emission of fine particles to zero”, Vandaele continues.
“If necessary with the help of an incentive bonus.” Particular drawback in Belgium is that standards for the stoves are a federal matter, while filters in the chimney are regulated by the regions.
Although closed wood-burning stoves are using less wood and pollute less than the open fireplaces we used to see in living rooms in the seventies, according to VMM the consequences of four hours of wood-burning still are comparable to a car drive from Brussels to Vienna.
40 times worse than natural gas
The newest generations of stoves may have all kinds of built-in systems to reduce the production of fine particles, but VMM’s studies show that even the newest models (2017) still cause 40 times more fine particle emissions than a heating system on natural gas.
During his 45 years’ career in the sector Michel Dutry has seen a lot of changes. “First there were the open fireplaces but it was the oil crisis that made people switch to the closed stoves. It’s only much later that climate became an issue.”