Third of all compost sold in UK is climate-damaging peat
More than a third of all compost sold in the UK in 2021 was peat dug from carbon-rich habitats, new data has revealed.
The Horticultural Trades Association (HTA), which opposes a ban on peat sales, provided the figures in its response to a government consultation. The consultation proposes banning peat compost sales to gardeners by 2024 and ministers have said they aim to end sales to professional growers by 2028. An earlier voluntary goal of ending retail sales by 2020 failed.
Almost 5 million cubic metres of compost was sold in 2021, with three-quarters bought by gardeners. But while only 30% of their purchases were peat, more than half the compost bought by horticulture businesses was peat. Overall, peat made up 35% of sales, down from 41% in 2020.
Peatlands cover just 3% of the planet’s surface but hold twice as much carbon as all the world’s forests. The destruction and degradation of peatlands releases CO2 and drives the climate crisis. In the UK, 87% of peatlands are degraded and emit a combined 10m tonnes of CO2 a year.
Dianna Kopansky, from the Global Peatlands Initiative at UN Environment, praised the UK government’s intention to end retail sales in 2024 but added- ‘Further action is needed to reduce the 1.7 million cubic metres of peat sold annually in the UK.’
Monty Don, a gardener and broadcaster, said- ‘Peat extraction does great environmental harm [and] it is simply untrue that there are no viable alternatives. It is time for all gardeners to change, adapt, be creative and accept that our gardens are inextricably connected to the wider environmental landscape.’
In its consultation response, the HTA said an industry taskforce had pledged to end retail sales between 2025 and 2028 and horticultural sales between 2028 and 2030. ‘A ban is unnecessary,’ it said. ‘Government actions should not harm an industry that at its very core contributes to excellent mental health and wellbeing, adds positively to the healthy eating agenda [and] enhances the environment.’
The HTA claimed- ‘The removal of peat in horticulture without a commercially viable alternative material may have unintended consequences eg food security and access to affordable food.’ It also wants exemptions for plug plants and mushroom production.
The Royal Horticultural Society now sells only peat-free compost and its director of science and collections, Prof Alistair Griffiths, said the end of all peat sales should come as fast as possible- ‘Peatlands are the world’s largest carbon store and provide valuable ecosystems for wildlife as well as important water services.’ Kathryn Brown, the director of climate change and evidence at The Wildlife Trusts, said- ‘There are no uses of peat in horticulture which can justify the detrimental impacts of its extraction.’
The government consultation contains alternative measures that fall short of an outright ban, including an additional charge on the price of peat compost, or the provision of information on the environmental impact of peat at the point of sale. The government said it did not intend to ban the sale of plants in pots that contained peat.
Much of the UK’s peat is imported from the Republic of Ireland and other EU nations. Ireland’s state-backed company Bord na Móna ended all peat extraction in 2020, although its reserves are still being sold.
Kopansky said- ‘With the end of peat harvesting by Bord na Móna, there has never been a better time to invest in sustainable alternative growing media and transition away from using peat.’
Some big retailers of peat have implemented their own bans, including Dobbies and the Co-op in 2021, and B&Q by 2023. Sustainable alternatives to peat include compost made from wood fibre and bark, wool, coir, and garden waste.
(News Source -Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by Times Of Nation staff and is published from a www.theguardian.com feed.)
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