Time to talk peat.
B&Q has called on the government to ban the sale of bagged peat-based compost, following its own commitment to go 100% peat-free by 2023. Why is this important?
Peatlands are vital for sequestering carbon in the UK.
Yet, peat has been a staple ingredient of compost since the 1960s despite not being hugely nutritious for plants.
B&Q wants the government to put the environment first by banning the sale of compost containing peat by 2024.
Here’s what you need to know.
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What are peatlands?
Peatlands are a type of carbon-rich wetlands that cover 3% of the world’s land surface area. They cover 12% of the UK alone.
There are three types of peatland in the UK:
- Blanket bog – made by mainly rainwater and found in uplands
- Raised bog – made by mainly rainwater and found in lowlands
- Fens – made by rainwater, groundwater and river water
The conditions of the peatlands prevent organic matter from fully decomposing. The peat soil, which then gets added to compost, is made from partially decayed materials.
This soil is not particularly nutritious to plants but it can hold water and air – but it’s generally free of pests and diseases.
- Learn about the plight of the UK’s natural realms: 26 Natural Realms Of The UK: The Writers Shining A Light On The Biodiversity Crisis
“The peatlands’ rich biodiversity has dubbed them the ‘rainforests of the UK”
Why avoid peat in compost?
Peatlands, sometimes called peat bogs are an important part of the world’s ecosystem.
In the UK, healthy peatlands can mitigate the risk of flooding as they slow the flow of water from the uplands and create floodplain storage in the lowlands.
They’re also a vital habitat for wildlife, providing nesting and feeding grounds for wading birds and a home for rare insects and plants.
The peatlands’ rich biodiversity has seen them dubbed, the ‘rainforests of the UK.’
Peatlands also play another vital role. Sequestering carbon.
They’re one of the most carbon-rich environments in the world.
In fact, they store between 4 to 25 times more carbon than tree components.
In the UK, peatlands have stored an estimated 3.2 billion tonnes of carbon. If left to exist naturally, peatlands can help reduce the effects of global warming.
Currently, due to human activities, they’ve become a net source of greenhouse gas emissions because the locked-in carbon is released when the peat soil is dug up.
The main culprits are compost, farming and building new housing developments.
B&Q’s peat-free pledge
B&Q has been slowly removing peat from its products since 1991 and stopped selling 100% peat compost in 2008.
In 2021, B&Q announced its pledge to sell 100% peat-free compost and products by 2023.
Currently, all its own-brand compost is peat-free in the UK. It’s now calling on the government to join them in eliminating bagged peat compost for gardeners in England and Wales by 2024.
To make the move a reality, B&Q has been making changes to its supply chain and innovating high-quality, affordable compost that can replace peat.
Steve Guy, Market Director Outdoor, B&Q, says: “At B&Q we have a long history of developing our outdoor range to help our customers have greener, healthier gardens, and this work continues today.
“The protection of our peatlands is very important to preserve habitats and slow climate change, which is why we are calling on the government to ban the sale of bagged peat compost.
“At B&Q, we are continuing to put innovation at the forefront of our approach to ensure high-quality and affordable peat-free compost is on the market to help gardeners transition to peat-free alternatives.”
“The protection of our peatlands is very important to preserve habitats and slow climate change”
What’s in peat-free compost?
The challenge of peat-free compost is to mimic the ability to store air and water like peat soil which is important for root growth.
This has been achieved through composted bark fines, coir, wood fibre and green waste that provide a mix of coarse and fine particles.
Peat-free compost to look out for
If you’re keen to go peat-free in your garden, look out for GoodHome and Verve brands in B&Q.
These suppliers are members of the Growing Media Association (GMA) which is part of the Horticultural Trades Association (HTA) to ensure safety and quality.
B&Q’s GoodHome Enriched Multi-purpose Peat-free Compost 50L is a Which? Best Buy for peat-free compost, and is competitively priced so it’s a no-brainer if you’re making the switch.
- Find more options here: For Peat’s Sake: 5 Of The Best Peat-Free Compost