With the pandemic, there are many bars and restaurants in the country that depend on terraces to try to survive, due to capacity restrictions or even the prohibition of consumption inside the premises. To keep up with the clientele with the arrival of the cold, sales of outdoor stoves have exploded.
Although experts agree that the environmental impact of these devices is complex to measure and is considerably less than that of other much more important sources of pollution in cities, such as cars, their proliferation in the streets is a contradictory message when The aim is to drastically reduce emissions and energy waste.
Gonzalo Fuentes, the federal head of Hospitality and Tourism of Comisiones Obreras (CC OO), calculates that the turnover in outdoor stoves has increased by 50% compared to the previous year. According to Juan Manuel Lozano, director of the Catalan company ContractPro, the sale of these heaters has increased by about 40%. As he points out, Spanish hoteliers have been acquiring the cheapest models, which are butane and propane stoves, which tend to pollute more than other models. For his part, Javier Écija, owner of the Eventis-Ena company, in Cabra (Córdoba), comments that in his case the increase in sales has been more than 100%.
How much does this increase mean in terms of pollution? “In the city of Madrid, the figure could reach 17,000 tons of CO₂ per year, taking into account that the census of terraces is approximately 5,000 and that of these, 3,000 have winter use. The figure represents 0.15% of the city's total emissions, ”explains Rodrigo Irurzun, from Ecologistas en Acción. “It could be thought that it is insignificant, although the danger is that it is going to increase. What is really worrying is the fact that it is generating, on the one hand, the establishment of a practice that is harmful to the environment, which will be increasingly difficult to eliminate. On the other hand, the incoherent image that this type of practice conveys to us places any policy to combat climate change in a complicated place, due to the absurdity of allowing this type of facility ”,
To counteract the polluting effect of stoves, the Institute for Energy Diversification and Saving (IDAE) states that there are alternatives such as portable biomass stoves or infrared stoves. These devices, unlike traditional ones, do not heat the air, but directly people. With regard to electric stoves, their impact depends on the origin of the energy with which they are fed: renewable sources, fossils or a mixture, they explain from the IDAE. In the case of the Spanish electricity system, there is already a high presence of renewable energy and it is expected to still grow a lot (it is intended that in 2030 74% of electricity consumption will be renewable). Of gas stoves, the same sources indicate:
The city of Rennes was the first in France to ban the use of outdoor stoves last year. The vice president of the metropolis in charge of mobility and transport, Matthieu Theurier, defends that heating the terrace is an "energy aberration". And he assures that the citizens themselves have wanted this change. At the bar-restaurant L'Ambassade, where blankets are usually handed out, restaurateur Pierre Clolus says that the clientele is used to enduring the cold. In his case, he points out, he gave up stoves even before the ban. Now, with the pandemic, stoves are now their least concern. "What I want right now is to go back to work," he says desperately.
Blankets tend to be a popular option in more northern latitudes, as confirmed by UKHospitality Union Executive Director Kate Nicholls. There, with the pandemic, the London restaurant Dalloway Terrace has followed the policy of one blanket per diner. Until the closure of the sector to stop the virus, this establishment disinfected the blankets immediately after use, but recommended that its customers bring their own for safety reasons.
Coats-clad Swedish tourists from Rebecca Johansen's terrace outside Copenhagen, Denmark in April 2020.
In Denmark, Rebecca Johansen says that, from years before the coronavirus, she needed between 300 and 400 blankets for customers outside her bars on the outskirts of Copenhagen. “I was frustrated,” she remembers, because there were too many to wash continuously. Looking for a solution, she set up the company SittingSuits , which makes large coats to withstand the cold on terraces or outdoor events. According to the businesswoman, these garments, with the filling made from recycled plastic, are easier to wash and dry faster. At first she made them only for his bars, but now with the pandemic she sells to other places.
However, the reality is that stoves have been gaining ground in catering establishments across Europe. At least for part of the year. From Oslo (Norway), Raden Soemawinata, owner of the small restaurant Mucho Mas, says that he usually turns on the stoves in August, when the temperature can drop to 10 degrees, but turns them off in October, when it starts to get so cold that nobody sits outside anymore.
The Barcelona City Council has announced that in 2025 gas stoves will be banned and only electric ones can be used. In Madrid, Jorge, the manager of La Casa del Abuelo, a stone's throw from the Plaza Mayor, hopes that his electric heaters will be an incentive for people to sit on his terrace. Low in morale from the pandemic disaster, she keeps her stoves on, though no customers have turned up yet.