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Environment - What is Peat?

Peat forms in wetland areas via the accumulation of partially decayed vegetation; mainly sedges, grasses, reeds and mosses. The peatland ecosystem is the most efficient carbon sink on the planet because peatland plants capture the CO2 which is naturally released from the peat; this maintains an equilibrium. Peat reserves take thousands of years to form and replenish at a rate of less than 1mm in depth a year.

Why choose Peat Free?

The commercial extraction of peat for use in gardening is unsustainable and leads to the destruction of peatlands. This land is important for biodiversity, carbon storage and flood-risk management, so should be saved. With few exceptions the use of peat in horticulture is unnecessary. The UK horticultural industry is still hugely reliant on the use of peat in growing media products. In 2014 the industry consumed over 2 million cubic metres of peat from UK and European sources, that’s enough to fill over 800 Olympic sized swimming pools! At this rate the UK would require a peat bog the same area as Greenland to sustainably meet annual demand.

What’s happening in the UK to encourage the reduction of Peat use in Horticulture?

In June 2012 the Sustainable Growing Media Taskforce published its final report which summarised that:

  • 1. The horticulture industry over relies on peat. The more it argues the economic case for peat, the more it exposes the inherent risk in having an industry that is too reliant on peat to compete. It is in the economic interests of the industry to develop more choices and alternatives in the raw materials for growing media.
  • 2. All growing media regardless of origin must be competitive, perform to agreed standards and have proven sustainability credentials. Consensus is needed amongst the key stakeholders on what those credentials are and the degree of third party auditing required to show compliance.
  • 3. The environmental movement needs to restate its rational for zero peat use in horticulture and be consistent in the delivery of that message, not just across the UK but also across the EU and beyond. It also needs to balance its narrative on peat in horticulture with other uses of peat.
  • 4. Government should continue to show bold leadership on this issue, but should seek ways to, and be seen to, support a prosperous UK horticulture industry that not only uses sustainable growing media but creates a sector that supports Government’s wider sustainability and economic ambitions.

Field Compost fully endorse these objectives and have adopted a zero peat content policy across our entire product range.

“A world, and a UK, economy that values and nurtures nature, working with natural systems, reconnecting people with nature, providing passive access and helping people to relax, will be a more prosperous economy than one that drives the opposite trends.” Dr Alan Knight, Towards Sustainable Growing Media Chairman’s Report and Roadmap. June 2012

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