Sign this Petition that Calls on the Scottish Parliament to urge the Scottish Government to place a Legal Ban on Peat

This petition calls on the Scottish Parliament to urge the Scottish Government to place a legal ban on the extraction of peat, peat imports, exports, and sales in order to protect peatlands both in Scotland and worldwide. Please sign, here’s a link: https://petitions.parliament.scot/petitions/PE1945
(NB: This petition is collecting signatures until the 8th August 2022. You don’t have to live in Scotland to sign)

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#PeatFreeHeroes & #PeatVillains

This #PeatFreeApril we need your help to find the country’s #PeatFreeHeroes – and tell the #PeatVillains we’re on to them.

Any time in April you visit your local garden centre or supermarket, look out for their compost. Do they only sell peat-free compost? Then they’re a peat-free hero! Take a picture of their peat-free compost. Post the image on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook. Tag the company, tag @PeatFreeApril, and use the hashtag #PeatFreeHero.

In our search for heroes, we may come across villains who continue to sell peat-based composts.

Does your garden centre or supermarket still stock peat-based compost? In this case, they’re a #PeatVillain. Take a picture of their peat-based compost. Post the image on social media. Tag the company, and tag @PeatFreeApril, and use the hashtag #PeatVillain.

We’ll count all the times companies have been tagged & will share our top ten #PeatFreeHeroes and worst #PeatVillains at the end of April.

#PeatFreeApril and beyond!

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Our response to the peat consultation

The UK government has a public consultation on ending the retail sale of peat.

Please respond by the 18th March 2022, the online survey link is at the bottom of the page.

Peat Free April’s response

These answers are for reference, please use your own words for the greatest effect.

About You

1. Which of the following do you identify yourself as?

  • Amateur Gardener
  • NGO Environmental Body
  • Growing Media Manufacturer
  • Retailer selling bagged growing media
  • Professional grower of horticulture
  • Peat extractor
  • Other

2. Which territory/territories do you live in or, if applicable, does your business operate in?

  • England
  • Northern Ireland
  • Scotland
  • Wales

Measure: Business as usual/voluntary approach

3. Our current approach consists of voluntary targets in England to end the use of peat in horticulture by 2020 for the amateur sector. Should we continue with the voluntary approach?

  • Yes
  • No
  • Unsure

4. If we were to revise the date for ending the use of peat in horticulture for the amateur sector, when should that date be?

  • 2024
  • 2025
  • 2026

Please give your reasons and upload any supporting evidence (optional). Max 150 words.

The voluntary ban has been an abject failure [1]. We require an enforced ban that ends peat use by 2023 to follow advice from the Climate Change Committee [2]. Our peatlands’ condition worsens daily; the seeds of rare plant species held within peatlands continue to be lost during excavation. Despite having over 20 years notice of the upcoming peat ban, the horticultural industry has procrastinated for decades and has failed to take this issue seriously. We need an outright ban on the use of peat in all aspects of horticulture, for both amateur and professionals. We need to protect biodiversity and protect ourselves by safeguarding our peatlands. Almost all plants grow better without peat. For over 25 years, I’ve grown a wide range of plants successfully in peat-free growing media; there is no need to use peat [3]. Continued use of peat is harming us and our planet.

Mandatory Reporting of the Volume of Peat Sold

13. Do you agree that this measure would encourage the horticulture industry to reduce their use of peat and peat containing products?

  • Yes
  • No
  • Unsure

The more work that companies are required to do to fulfil their legal obligations around peat the more aware they will be of their peat use and the less likely they are to want to sell peat-based products. If businesses that use peat are compelled to spend additional time to fulfil their legal duties due to their use of peat (and peat-free companies are relieved of this burden) the less profitable and desirable a peat-based product becomes.
However, mandatory reporting will not be effective enough; what we urgently need now is a total ban on peat use in the horticultural industry. The sooner mandatory reporting can be brought in the better, but it’s important that mandatory reporting on peat use will hasten and not delay the implementation of a complete ban on the use of peat in horticulture and it’s vital that companies now go 100% peat-free.

14. Do you agree that this measure would help to raise awareness of issues around the use of horticultural peat?

  • Yes
  • No
  • Unsure

Mandatory reporting on peat use will raise awareness in the horticultural industry and assist in helping to identify successes in switching to peat-free growing media, which could encourage and facilitate accurate knowledge sharing. Awareness around the use of horticultural peat is important, but despite many campaigns, the genuine issues around peat have not been grasped or understood by the majority of those working in the horticultural industry or the general public. We urgently need to stop using peat; we need a robust, thorough, and effective ban on the use of peat in horticulture for both amateur and professional gardeners. Reducing the quantity of peat we use is not enough; we are in a climate and nature emergency urgent, effective action – a complete ban – is long overdue. We are relying on you to introduce an expedited ban on the use of peat in horticulture.

Ban the sale of peat
The environmental concerns around peat use in horticulture have been ongoing since the 1990s and there is widespread frustration that the issue has yet to be resolved. We have concluded that the voluntary approach has not delivered.

One of the key barriers to phasing out peat use in horticulture has been the lack of a level playing field and a perceived first mover disadvantage due to the increased price of alternatives compared to peat and increased production costs. This measure would level the playing field and ensure that further progress was made to end peat use.

A ban on the sale of peat and peat containing products would apply to domestic and imported peat, alike.

Measure: Ban the sale of peat

15. Do you think there should be a retail sales ban for peat and peat containing products in England and Wales?

  • Yes
  • No
  • Unsure

16. Will it be feasible to implement a sales ban for the retail sector by the end of this parliament (2024)?

  • Yes
  • No
  • Unsure

Please give your reasons (optional). 150 words max

The horticultural industry was told over 20 years ago that peat use would need to cease by 2020. We are now in 2022 – the industry has already enjoyed decades, plus over two years of extra time to run trials and make any adaptions to their businesses. Excellent peat-free growing mediums are available; most plants grow as well or better in peat-free growing media[1]. Over 100 Nurseries are peat-free[2]. Field-grown plants, hydroponics, and other growing methods can be used that are naturally peat-free.
Effective and sustainable propagation methods will continue to be developed after a ban on peat is implemented. Crops can be grown to produce compost and waste products and digestate can also be utilised. Home and community composting encouraged and guidance on the use of compost (not digging bags of compost into the soil) can be given.
The Climate Change Committee recommend all peat use ends by 2023.

[1] www.iucn-uk-peatlandprogramme.org/resources/restoration-practice/demonstrating-success
[2] www.dogwooddays.net/2020/04/30/updated-peat-free-nurseries-list

17. Should there be any exemptions from such a ban? (Please select all that apply.)

  • Yes, where peat is used as a growing medium for potted plants and shrubs
  • Yes, for scientific purposes
  • Yes, other reason
  • No, there should not be any exemptions

Please give your reasons and upload any supporting evidence (optional). Max 200 words.

There must be no loopholes or exceptions for amateurs/professionals who want to use peat for growing plants that were traditionally grown in peat, for example carnivorous plants or Rhododendrons. A worthy reason connected to scientific research or conservation, administered through appropriate conservation channels must be the only possible exception for using peat.
Any Exemptions must be strictly controlled and monitored. Possible exceptions include raising a limited number of peatland plants in a National Collection or for initiatives connected to scientific research and conservation; these would need to be restricted and monitored; the quantity of peat used would need to be controlled and restricted.
Almost all plants grow better without the inclusion of peat in their growing media. I achieve excellent germination using peat-free growing media. Salix nursery[1] raises peatland plants in the UK, using peat-free growing media. Carnivorous plants are also successfully grown peat-free by many UK growers.

Please upload any evidence here

18. Are there industries other than the horticultural industry that will be severely affected by a ban of the retail sale of peat and peat containing products? [If ‘yes’] which industries?

  • Yes
  • No
  • Unsure

Whisky and mushroom producers.

19. For potted plants and shrubs, what should be the maximum quantity of peat that should be exempt from a sales ban?

  • Less than 1l per product
  • Less than 5l per product
  • Less than 10l per product

Please give your reasons (optional). 150 words max

There should be no exceptions. We should not be using peat. We need robust and effective laws to protect our peatlands.
Once the legal ban is introduced, it’s important that any shrubs, trees, or other plants that were grown in peat-based growing mediums prior to 2023 will still be allowed to be retained and sold. It’s important to allow time for these plants to mature to retail or commercial sale requirements. This would need to be regulated under a licence system.

Measure: Point of sale bag charge for the purchase of any growing media bag containing peat

20. Do you think that the measure to increase the price of growing media containing peat will have an impact on consumer behaviour?

  • Yes
  • No
  • Unsure

Levies could make peat-using-companies appear more environmentally-friendly or charitable and might be negatively associated with anyone encouraging horticulture to be more sustainable.
Increasing the cost of peat will not solve the environmental problems that result from excavating peat for horticulture.
Growers are fixated on peat and would happily pay more to use peat.
A high proportion of gardeners are middle class and can afford to pay extra.
Expensive goods are often considered superior. It would be regrettable if price increases caused peat to be mistakenly perceived as more desirable.
It is the responsibility of the government, retailers, and the horticultural industry to ensure that products sold are sustainable. The consumer should not shoulder this responsibility or bear the cost.

21. Would this measure encourage the sale of more peat-free alternative growing media?

  • Yes
  • No
  • Unsure

Please give your reasons (optional). 150 words max

Special offers on peat-based composts should be banned. Two for one deals, three for £X, or offers that encourage customers to purchase larger quantities or extra bags of peat for a discounted price must be strictly forbidden.

Peat containing products should be allocated a designated area with signage clearly explaining (wording written by conservation specialists not retailers or compost manufacturers) that peat use is harmful to the environment and steals a rare habitat away from rare plants and wildlife and contributes to climate change.

If the premium for peat-based composts was significantly higher than the current price points for premium brands of peat-free compost this could have a reduction in the amount of peat sold and used. However, this is not guaranteed. A legal and robust ban that is speedily implemented is what is what is urgently required to make a difference and protect our peatlands.

22. What would be an appropriate amount for the point of sale charge for a 50L bag of growing media containing peat?
Please select from the following options. (This charge would be in addition to the original price of the product.)

  • £1 – 0.92 per litre
  • £2.50 – 0.05 per litre
  • £3.50 – 0.07 per litre
  • Other

Please give your reasons (optional). 150 words max

Levy monies could ‘green-wash’ peat products, making them appear desirable, saleable, or as if they help peatlands or conservation, which could not be further from the truth! To be effective, the point-of-sale charge would need to increase the cost of peat-based-products by 100%/£10 per bag or more. Peat-free must be available at a significant cost reduction to affect purchasing decisions. Gardeners are often home-owners with disposable income; a higher charge may not be a deterrent. Extra charges that gardeners begrudgingly pay to continue using peat is not a solution; we need a complete ban on peat in horticulture. No amount of money is adequate recompense for the priceless value that our peatlands offer us (carbon storage and capture, filtering high quality drinking water, protecting us from flooding and climate change, safeguarding biodiversity, habitat for rare plants and wildlife, areas for relaxation and exercise).

23. Do you have a view on what retailers should do with the levy money raised through the point-of-sale bag charge? (Please select all that apply.)

  • Donate funding to peatland restoration projects
  • Donate funding to research & development projects around the horticulture industry
  • Other

Please give your reasons (optional). 150 words max

We are anxious to ensure that any levy money raised will not be used to benefit any person or company who is using peat in horticulture.

We also fear that a levy could be misleadingly marketed as a charitable initiative and a positive contribution to society from companies that use peat.

The only acceptable course of action would be to have all monies raised sent to an independent body (outside of the horticultural industry) and to use all of the funds to repair and restore peatlands to benefit nature and wildlife. However, although this is the best option, We feel compelled to highlight how crazy this situation is, damaging a peatland and then collecting funds for repairs! A faster, stricter, and thorough ban on the use of peat in all aspects of horticulture would be a preferable outcome for our peatlands, for biodiversity, and for ourselves.

24. Do you believe there should be any exemptions to the point of sale charge? [If yes] How should we decide who should be exempt from measure?
Please select from the following options

  • Yes
  • No
  • Unsure

No exemptions.  If adopted, this measure should apply to any amount of peat in any peat containing product, including all growing media bags and any size or number of containers for container-grown plants.   

25. In addition to the point of sale charge, do you think having mandatory labelling of growing media bags containing peat would have an impact on consumer behaviour?

  • Yes
  • No
  • Unsure

Compost bags must be clearly labelled using clear, concise language with all the information in large sized lettering on the front of the bag. This should be mandatory. The current Responsible Sourcing Scheme for growing media requires urgent improvement.
The complex issues related to peatlands are not understood by the vast majority of the public and large swathes of the horticultural industry.
Following generations of damage by excavating peat for horticulture, over 80% of our peatlands are now in a seriously damaged state and require urgent restoration.
We need a fast and effective ban and investment into the restoration of our peatlands. Peatland restoration, improving woodland and local parks could create 16,050 jobs across the UK.

Call for evidence questions

26. Should we change the current voluntary target for ending the use of peat and peat containing products to 2028 for the professional sector in England?
This would include all sales of peat, including whether they are made to businesses or directly to consumers. Please select from the following options

If yes, what year should we change the voluntary target to and why? Please give your reasons and upload any supporting evidence (optional). Max 150 words

Yes, a legal, mandatory ban should be implemented as a matter urgency, in line with the CCC’s recommendation to end horticultural peat use in 2023.  The IUCN’s Demonstrating Success report shows clearly, through case studies of successful growers with thriving businesses without using peat, that peat is not needed in the professional sector.  

A ban on peat use would encourage innovation and create a robust, sustainable and lasting horticultural industry.

27. When would be feasible to ban the sale of peat and peat containing products for the professional sector?
This would include all sales of peat, including whether they are made to businesses or directly to consumers. Please select from the following options

  • 2028
  • 2029
  • 2030
  • Other

We support Climate Change Committee’s recommendation to end the use of peat in horticulture by 2023.

Professor Dave Goulson

Professor Dave Goulson

Professor Dave Goulson explains why we need to ban the use of peat in gardening.

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