Gardeners urged to stop using peat-based compost

Extraction releases huge amounts of CO2 into atmosphere

A A A

The star of the BBC's Gardeners' World has been drafted in by the Government as they try to persuade the public to stop using peat compost.

Ministers hope that Diarmuid Gavin will help them convince gardeners to stop using peat, which is present in almost half of all compost sold by garden centres.

Yesterday the Environment Secretary Hilary Benn announced a new target to phase out the use of peat compost in amateur gardens by 2020 but shied away from imposing a ban, provoking criticism from members of wildlife groups who said that ministers should have taken stronger action years ago.

In 1999 the Government aimed to eliminate peat from all but 10 per cent of compost by 2010, but it is still present in 46 per cent of the compost sold in Britain. Its extraction in the UK not only disturbs rare wildlife but also releases an estimated million tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year.

Around 70 per cent of peat is used in horticulture, much by amateur gardeners who have long considered it the best way of encouraging plant growth. It is rich in nutrients, being made up of partially decomposed plant material that has not decayed fully because of local conditions.

In northern Europe, peat is being extracted quicker than it is renewed on moors and bogs. Some 38 per cent of peat sold here comes from the UK, with 56 per cent coming from Ireland and 6 per cent from the Baltic states.

Launching the campaign at Kew Gardens in west London yesterday, Mr Benn said: "Amateur gardeners are by far the biggest users of peat, using over 2 million cubic metres each year. Our research shows us that gardeners often don't realise the damage that peat extraction causes or that the compost they're buying contains peat."

The launch was backed by Mr Gavin, who said: "Using peat-free products in the home and garden is one of the simplest yet most effective ways that people can make a positive environmental impact and reduce their carbon footprint. For most uses in the garden, for example, pots, growbags, hanging baskets, digging into or tidying up flowerbeds, peat-free alternatives are just as good as peat-based compost, and they don't lead to the loss of our valuable peat bogs."

The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs will hold talks with retailers this summer about how they can meet their 2020 target.

But a spokesman for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds criticised Mr Benn's plans, saying that they were not ambitious enough. Dr Mark Avery, the group's director of conservation, said that peat would still be used in private gardens in 10 years' time, and that the proposals would not affect commercial growers, who account for a third of peat use. Representatives from the RSPB and other environmental organisations are due to meet Defra ministers tomorrow to discuss their concerns.

Dr Avery said: "The Government has missed the chance for an easy win in the fight against climate change. Using peat in gardens releases a million tonnes of CO2 every year. Removing it from composts and grow-bags would cut those emissions at a stroke and would be the same as taking about 350,000 cars off the road. It would also help end the destruction of our precious peat bogs and the loss of birds, plants and insects that rely on them."

Peat compost: The alternatives

*Peat is not necessary to grow most plants. A Which? survey this year found that alternative composts performed better than peat for growing potatoes and flowers in pots.

*Alternatives include bark, green compost, wood waste, wood fibre and coir. Defra acknowledges peat is best for some "very specialist uses and plants", such as carnivorous plants native to peat bogs and some ericaceous plants native to moorlands, but advises gardeners to use peat-free compost for all main garden uses. It offers advice at www.direct.gov.uk/buyingcompost

Arts and Entertainment
filmPoldark production team claims innocence of viewers' ab frenzy
Life and Style
Google marks the 81st anniversary of the Loch Ness Monster's most famous photograph
techIt's the 81st anniversary of THAT iconic photograph
News
Katie Hopkins makes a living out of courting controversy
people
News
General Election
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Office Administrator

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Office Administrator is requ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - Commercial Vehicles - OTE £40,000

£12000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to expansion and growth of ...

Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer - Sheffield - £50,000

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer position with a...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Leader - Plasma Processing

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An Operations Leader is required to join a lea...

Day In a Page

Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

Open letter to David Cameron

Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

You don't say!

Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

So what is Mubi?

Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

The hardest job in theatre?

How to follow Kevin Spacey
Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

This human tragedy has been brewing for years

EU states can't say they were not warned
Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

Women's sportswear

From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

Clinton's clothes

Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders