Environmental charities have been joined by broadcaster and writer Monty Don in writing an open letter to the government calling for a ban on peat in garden compost in the next five years after new figures showed it would take decades to phase out at the current rate1.
The National Trust, Friends of the Earth, the RSPB, The Royal Horticultural Society, Plantlife, CPRE, the countryside charity, The Wildlife Trusts, Garden Organic, and Wildlife and Countryside Link say that unless a legal ban is introduced then some of the world’s most precious and important ecosystems could be lost forever, and the government’s climate and nature aims will be undermined.
Monty Don has added his voice to the plight, describing the continued use of peat in compost as “environmental vandalism”.
Healthy peatlands act as carbon sinks, trapping in carbon to help mitigate the impacts of climate change. They also help to control flooding and encourage vegetation that can provide homes for an array of wildlife. But when they are damaged, such as mining for compost, they lose these abilities and emit their carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
New figures released in recent weeks show the rate of decrease in the retail and professional horticulture sectors 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 2030 target to end its use in the professional sector is also on course to be missed.
In the retail sector, peat is down from 53.3 per cent of material in 2015 to 44.6 per cent last year. In the professional sector peat is down from 63.9 per cent of material in 2015 to 62.9 per cent last year2.
The majority of the two million cubic metres sold or used in the UK in 2019 was imported from the Republic of Ireland and other EU countries, with the remainder coming from peatlands in the UK.
In their open letter to Environment Secretary George Eustice today, the group is calling for a total ban on peat in compost - on its extraction within the UK, its import, export, and sale - in both the retail and professional sectors, by 2025 at the latest.
The charities say “allowing peat use to continue rewards failure and undermines the Prime Minister’s commitment … to lead the way on climate change and to tackle the loss of biodiversity.”
The letter adds: “We cannot lose another ten years to these approaches while we continue to import peat from habitats on the continent, contributing to the UK’s overseas environmental footprint - which your Government has committed to tackling.”