You may have heard that from 2024, the UK Government are banning the sale of products that make use of Peat, citing environmental reasons. Peat is a material that has been used particularly in compost for many years due it’s high water retention and nutritional value. However, the digging up of Peat has reached excessive proportions and is now impacting on the environment, so the Government are acting.
What is Peat?
Peat is a dark brown, natural, organic material that resembles soil but is made up of decayed organic matter. Peat can be found in wet areas such as bogs, moorland and of course, peatlands.
It differs to other organic material due to the unique environment it is created in where decaying vegetation and a high volume of water create lower oxygen levels.
It has for many years, traditionally been used as a fuel and in many remote and rural areas still is, but it’s primary use nowadays is in garden products, in particular compost. Potting compost is a combination of peat, fertilizer and minerals.
Why is using peat wrong?
It’s estimated that UK gardeners generate around 630,000 tonnes of carbon emissions each year by gardening using peat-based compost.
Peat has been getting mined and dug up over all the UK and Europe in large quantities for decades to the point that natural peat areas are now severely depleted. As with almost all natural materials, peat plays it’s part in helping to balance nature and the environment.
One important role peat areas play is to help to store carbon and the process of extracting and drying peat releases the carbon as emissions into the atmosphere.
Another crucial role is that of water management as large peat areas can absorb rain water which in turn can protect lower lying areas from flooding – a problem that is increasing throughout the UK and predicted to get worse in years to come.
Environmentalists have long campaigned for the use of peat to be banned and in 2011 a campaign was started for the voluntary phasing out of peat, but the opposite has happened with more peat than ever being used.
Being a natural material, peat does grow back, but only at a rate of 5mm per year, which is much less than the current extraction rate.
The areas around peat bogs and wetlands contain their very own ecosystem which support a wide variety of wildlife and insects. There is evidence to suggest that these ecosystems have already been quite seriously damaged and even when the ban comes in will take many years to recover.
What can we do about it?
Why wait for the ban? Why not stop using peat straight away? Unless your compost states that it is peat free, it more than likely will have peat in it, so check the labeling and be sure to buy peat free compost. One of the most common clues is “multipurpose compost’ which nearly always contains peat.
Compost containing peat can have advantages over peat free compost, but there is plenty of information available to help you make adjustments to your growing techniques and materials to get great results without the use of peat.
Peat free compost
We now understand the problem and the solution is to use peat free compost, but this leaves us facing two problems. The first is that peat free compost often does not work as well and the second is that those that work better are much more expensive.
The solution to both problems is, of course, the Ridan composting system. With a Ridan you will be helping to deal with two issues at once. The first is to reduce damage to peatlands which in turn reduces carbon emissions and the second is to help keep food waste out of landfill which also helps reduce carbon emissions. It’s a double win-win.
One of the big advantages to peat compost is it’s ability to retain moisture which is ideal for growing the likes of tomatoes, but you can create your own moisture retaining compost by adding wood bark or sawdust to your own organically produced compost during the maturation process.
As well as encouraging people away from the use of peat, the UK government will be awarding grants of up to £50million to help restore around 35,000 hectares of peatland in the UK. Considering the advantages peatland offers to the environment and the battle against climate change we really need to do more as 35,000 hectares is only 1% of the total area that needs to be replenished.
Just imagine if garden centres, horticulture businesses, schools, colleges and more started using the Ridan composting system right now. It would take far less time and far less Government money to repair and replenish our natural peat supplies.
If this is something that interests you, the National Trust look after 40 peatland sites of special scientific interest around England and Wales. Find out more here: https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/features/whats-so-special-about-peat