Minister calls for clearer peat labels

by Published Mon 18 May 2009 21:54
Environment Secretary Hilary Benn calls for greater scrutiny on peat labelling

Environment Secretary Hilary Benn today urged garden centres and retailers to make it clear if compost they sell contains peat, to highlight the damage its use does to wildlife and the environment.

Peat bogs are an important store of carbon emissions, but peat dug up in Britain for garden compost releases almost half a million tonnes of carbon dioxide a year - the equivalent of 100,000 cars on the road.

Peat use by gardeners dropped for the first time in 2007 (from 3.4million cubic metres to 3.01million cubic metres) with 54 per cent of the growing media market peat-free. Amateur gardeners account for almost 69% of all peat used in the UK, mainly in the form of 'Multi-purpose Compost' and 'Grow Bags'.

Before visiting the Chelsea Flower Show, Mr Benn said: "Peat harvested for gardening seriously damages rare wildlife habitats and contributes to climate change.

"Gardeners care about the environment. All compost should be labelled clearly so that they can make informed choices about what they use.

"Species such as the curlew and White-faced Darter dragonfly find their homes on our peat bogs, over three quarters of which have already been permanently damaged.

"There are many alternatives to using peat in the garden, and for the first time over 50 per cent of the compost market is peat free. If compost is not clearly labelled, people should ask retailers what type they sell, and ask for alternatives."

Mr Benn will meet gardeners at the Chelsea Flower Show and visit a garden designed by the government-funded UK Climate Impacts Programme demonstrating the effect of climate change on gardens.

Forty-three per cent of peat used in the UK comes from the UK, 54 per cent from the Republic of Ireland, and three per cent from the Baltic States. In the UK, the majority of undamaged peat bogs are protected as Special Areas of Conservation or Sites of Special Scientific Interest, 14,300 hectares as SACs, and 17,758 hectares as SSSIs.

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