Phase out of peat in compost material by 2020

“A call for the phase-out of peat in compost material was announced today by Environment Secretary Hilary Benn as part of the latest ACT ON CO2 campaign.

The phase out would mean that gardening centres and DIY stores would cease to sell peat-based composts for the amateur gardening market within ten years  and switch to peat-free alternatives instead.

The ACT ON CO2 campaign launched today, targets amateur gardeners who use the majority of the peat (around 70%) that is used in horticulture. The campaign focuses on raising awareness of the environmental impacts associated with peat and promoting a switch to peat-free alternatives in order to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and protect the valuable biodiversity and wildlife of lowland raised bogs (from which peat is extracted for horticulture use).

Link to defra web page”

…and not before time, some of us would say.  But this is only a CALL for action, they havent actually announced a requirement to phase out.  It requires everyone to stop buying peat containing stuff – and that is not as easy as it sounds.  Last year I got peat-free seed compost from Taverham Garden Centre.  This year when I looked again at what I’d brought home it had 45% peat.  AAGH!

The notes to the press announcement include the following points which are really quite useful:

  1. For more information on Defra’s ACT ON CO2 Peat-Free campaign and to view the video of Diarmuid Gavin explaining the benefits of using peat-free compost when planting see link –
  2. Significant progress has been made over the past few years to reduce the horticultural use of peat, in response to the current Government target for 90% of the total market for growing media and soil conditioners to be peat free by the end of 2010. However, only 54% of the total market is peat free.
  3. There are a range of peat free alternatives currently on the market using materials such as bark, green compost, wood waste and wood fibre and coir (derived from coconut husks). Recycled (peat-based) mushroom compost is also sometimes used. Many of the lower peat formulations that are on the market will use a proportion of these materials in their products.
  4. For most garden uses, these alternatives are just as good as peat based composts and they don’t lead to the loss of valuable peat bogs. A recent Which? report found that peat free products out-perform their peat-based equivalents for a number of uses.
  5. It is recognised that for some very specialist uses and plants – for example, carnivorous plants that are native to peat bogs and some ericaceous plants that are native to moorlands – some alternatives may not yet work as well as peat in all circumstances. To reduce your carbon footprint, it’s important that you look for peat free compost for all of your main garden uses.