Environmental groups have come together to write a letter to the environment minister calling for a ban on the use of peat in compost by 2025. The famous gardener, broadcaster and writer Monty Don has also signed, calling peat in compost “environmental vandalism”. The call comes because the volume of peat sold in the UK last year exceeded two million cubic meters.
Together with broadcaster and writer Monty Don, he wrote an open letter to the government calling for a ban on peat in garden compost for the next five years after new figures showed it would take decades to comply with the current one Rate expires 1.
The National Trust, Friends of the Earth, RSPB, Royal Horticultural Society, Plantlife, CPRE, Rural Charity, Wildlife Trusts, Garden Organic, and Wildlife and Countryside Link say some of the world, unless a legal ban is put in place, will Most valuable and important ecosystems could be lost forever, and the government’s climate and natural goals will be undermined.
Monty Don has added his voice to the plight, calling the continued use of peat in compost “environmental vandalism”.
Golden Plover, Copyright Jared Clarke, from the Surfbirds Galleries
Healthy peatlands act as carbon sinks and lock in carbon to mitigate the effects of climate change. They also help control flooding and promote vegetation that can host a wide variety of wildlife. However, when they are damaged, for example by compost decomposition, they lose these abilities and release their carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
New figures released in the past few weeks show that the decline in retail and professional horticulture is “small and slow”.
They also show that a voluntary target to end its use in the amateur sector by 2020 has been completely missed and that the 2030 target to end its use in the professional sector is also on the right track to be missed.
In retail, peat fell from 53.3 percent of the material in 2015 to 44.6 percent in the previous year. In the professional sector, peat has decreased from 63.9 percent of material in 2015 to 62.9 percent last year2.
Most of the two million cubic meters sold or used in the UK in 2019 were imported from the Republic of Ireland and other EU countries, with the remainder coming from UK bogs.
In its open letter to Environment Secretary George Eustice today, the group is calling for a complete ban on peat in compost – its extraction within the UK, its import, export and sale – in both retail and professional sectors by 2025 to the latest.
The charities say, “Permission to use peat continues to reward failure and undermine the Prime Minister’s commitment to promoting climate change and tackling biodiversity loss.”
The letter adds, “We cannot lose another decade on these approaches as we continue to import peat from habitats on the continent, adding to the UK’s overseas environmental footprint – which your government is committed to addressing.”
The end of the peat in the compost could be achieved by the upcoming English peat strategy, either by introducing a ban or by giving advice on how to do this as soon as possible. The long-awaited strategy was first mentioned in the government’s 25-year environmental plan nearly three years ago, and peat has continued to be extracted and converted into compost ever since.
Monty Don, gardener and presenter, said:
“There is no such beautiful garden that justifies the extent of the environmental damage or the contribution to climate change that peat use is causing. Extracting peat for horticulture is an act of environmental vandalism. It causes irreparable environmental damage. The fact that it is also a major contributor to the release of CO2 and aggravating the effects of climate change adds salt to a serious wound. Ten years ago, the government announced its intention to end all retail peat by 2020 and all horticultural peat use by 2030. However, the retail and horticultural industries have missed these humble goals by a wide margin. It is time for the government and parliament to ban peat production and sales entirely. It is time for all the different elements of the horticultural trade to come together to provide and promote the existing alternative growth media for both amateurs and professionals. “
Nikki Williams, Director of Campaigning & Policy at The Wildlife Trusts said:
“When the voluntary goals were set almost a decade ago, we failed to appreciate the level of pressure on our climate and the impact our activities have on wildlife both at home and abroad. With support, the horticultural sector can become a sector dedicated to the recovery of nature by quickly stopping peat use and giving gardeners confidence that the products they take home to maintain their own green spaces will do not destroy the wild habitat elsewhere. Peat has been presented as an abundant and perfect product for growing crops for too long. However, if gardeners could see the destruction peat extraction has caused in habitats around the world, they would be truly appalled. “
Ben McCarthy, director of conservation and restoration ecology at the National Trust, said:
“The government proudly announces that it is hosting the UN Climate Change Conference next year and has ambitions to be an advocate for nature on the world stage. The Prime Minister promises new resources for nature and warns of the dire consequences of biodiversity loss. However, the government allows the import of peat compost to continue. This leads to the destruction of moors on our doorstep and in other countries too. The National Trust has shown for years that it is possible to be peat-free in our garden centers, kindergartens and gardens. “
“As the government wants to do more to improve our ‘ecological footprint’ abroad by combating illegal logging, a ban on the use of peat compost by 2025 would make just as much sense as ending the use of illegal timber. The government has promised to include this in its 25-year environmental plan – we’ve been on this plan for three years and the clock is ticking. The upcoming peat strategy for England must provide a clear path to the end of peat compost in the UK by 2025 at the latest. “