Plans to ban the use of peat in horticulture in England and Wales by the end of this Parliament were set out by the Government today (Saturday 18 December) in an effort to protect precious peatland habitats and meet net zero targets.
Peat is the UK’s largest carbon store and is routinely dug up in the UK for horticultural purposes, such as for growing media. Bagged retail growing media accounts for 70% of the peat sold in the UK. When this extraction takes place, the carbon stored inside the bog is released as carbon dioxide, contributing to climate change.
Peat extraction also degrades the state of the wider peatland landscape, damaging habitats for rare species of flora and fauna, and negatively impacting peat’s ability to prevent flooding and filter water.
In a consultation published today, the Government has set out measures to phase out the sale of peat and peat-containing products in the amateur sector by the end of this Parliament. Organisations with an interest in peatland protection, horticultural businesses and associations, and those who import and export peat products, are being asked for their views on new measures to end the use of peat products in horticulture.
The 12-week consultation is also seeking views on:
- Introducing point-of-sale measures for bagged growing media, such as a point-of-sale charge for the purchase of any growing media bag containing peat; and mandatory labelling and point-of-sale material containing detail of the environmental reasons for eschewing products containing peat.
- Mandatory reporting of the volume of peat sold for all sellers of peat and peat containing products.
- Potential exemptions, including for scientific purposes and a maximum amount of peat allowed in certain products, which will need to be strictly defined and enforced to prevent exploitation.
Sustainable alternatives to peat which are of comparable quality to peat-based products are currently available. These are often made up of peat-free materials derived from more sustainable sources, for example wood fibre and bark, green compost, wool, coir and other materials.
Environment Minister Rebecca Pow said:
“Our peatlands are an incredibly valuable natural resource. They play a crucial role in locking up carbon, provide habitats for wildlife and help with flood mitigation.
“The amateur gardening sector has made huge strides in reducing peat use and there are now more sustainable and good quality peat-free alternatives available than at any other time, so I am confident now is the right time to make the shift permanent.
“Today’s consultation directly contributes towards the Government’s net zero carbon emissions target. The protection of our peatlands will also help us deliver on commitments in the 25 Year Environment Plan whilst also preserving these landscapes for future generations.”
The Government has also today awarded funding of over £4 million to help groups develop new projects seeking to restore peatland systems to a natural and healthy state at a landscape scale. The funding will be delivered by Natural England and will help unlock barriers to peatland restoration, enabling projects that would struggle to gain funding to be in a position to apply for future rounds of peat restoration funding. Grants have been awarded to 10 projects from across the country including in the Fens, Dorset, Somerset and Yorkshire.
Garden Organic has led the campaign for the removal of peat from horticulture for many years. Whilst we welcome this consultation as a step in the right direction, we urge growers to ditch peat today. Many thousands of gardeners have already switched to peat-free growing in their gardens, balconies and allotments. To help you make the switch without compromising on your growing we have produced a range of resources, access them today for free via the links below:
- Online peat-free growing course
- Recipes to make your own peat-free growing mix
- Help with what to look out for when buying peat-free compost
- Tips on watering and feeding peat-free compost