ACT ON CO2 is a key part of the UK Government’s plan to help tackle climate change. It communicates to the British public through TV, press, radio and online advertising, explaining the link between CO2 emissions and global warming.
One of its current campaigns is to discourage the use of peat; a popular component of commercial compost products.
Peat is an accumulation of partially decayed vegetation matter. Under certain conditions, peat will turn into lignite coal over very long periods of time. Lignite coal is brown coal, the most filthy of fossil fuels.
ACT ON CO2 says gardeners often don’t realize that extracting peat damages peatland habitats and wildlife, and releases carbon dioxide emissions that harm the environment.
The use of peat has become such a concern, UK Environment Secretary Hilary Benn has called for a phase-out of peat usage in composts within ten years
According to a UK government press release, around half a million tonnes of carbon dioxide is emitted each year as a result of peat extraction from UK sites for horticultural use, not taking into account that Britain imports over 50% of its peat from overseas. Amateur gardeners are by far the biggest users of peat, using over 2 million cubic metres each year.
A recent survey carried out by the Horticultural Trades Association (HTA) found two-thirds of garden owners were unaware of the environmental issues surrounding peat and its extraction for use in compost and growbags. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) says peat-free alternatives can produce equally good results in their gardens for a wide range of plants.
Even if you’re not in the UK, the compost you buy might have peat in it. Learn more about alternatives to peat for gardening