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Quest to find sustainable alternative to peat boosted by £320,000 investment and unique collaboration
Replacing the estimated 1.7 million cubic meters* of peat used in horticulture with sustainable alternatives is a huge challenge, but one which has today been boosted by £320,000 of grant funding secured from the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation.
Newly founded environmental innovator Sizzle has brought together organisations including waste management companies, garden retailers, trade bodies, NGOs and academics to explore new sustainable alternatives to peat and how to make it easier for people to select a greener choice.
The funding will support an initial 18-month trial that will look to enhance the quality and consistency of composted materials derived from waste streams, in a specific area. The resultant materials will then potentially have a wider range of uses helping to reduce the amount of raw materials needed by the industry. We aim to explore the use of derivatives from green, agricultural and food waste streams and work closely with the local authority and waste processor to deliver key messages and increase the quality of feedstocks and resultant compost.
The project will also demonstrate to gardeners how best to use peat alternatives as a growing medium and highlight how composting and the use of wormeries can create mulch and soil enhancers.
Woman in garden with soil and planting © iStock.com PeopleImages
A location for this trial is currently being sought and if successful, the results will be openly shared, enabling it to be rolled out on a national level.
The UK and Welsh Government are currently leading the way in banning retail peat based growing media sales in horticulture. Scottish Government is currently consulting on this issue.
This welcome step will help towards tackling the climate and biodiversity crises and support the transition to net zero; seeks to help gardeners transition successfully to peat free and provide evidence to inform legislation change to increase the replacement of peat with more sustainable peat alternatives.
The growing media industry has been moving to peat free but also needs support to find alternatives at scale that are of high quality, consistent and readily available. This trial will help address changes that are required across the whole system, including the legislative framework, business practices and citizen behaviour. Areas of focus include reducing contamination from waste streams to enhance the quality of materials that could be part of the peat replacement process and identifying potential legislative blockers which might unexpectedly hinder the use of waste derivatives as part of the transition from peat.
Trewin Restorick, founder of Sizzle said: “We must hasten the transition from the use of peat in horticulture to more sustainable alternatives, however to achieve this we need systemic change, from producers through to customers. We’re particularly keen to explore whether a sufficiently high volume of well-composted waste derived material could be used at the scale and quality required by the industry.
I’m optimistic that with new levels of collaboration between organisations who haven’t previously connected, plus this fantastic funding boost from Esmée Fairburn Foundation to run a localised trial, we can show what’s possible and provide some innovative solutions at scale.
We are now looking for a location to run this trial and are very keen to hear from local authorities and waste management companies within the UK that have ambitious targets for cutting carbon emissions and have a desire to reduce waste contamination and build more circular solutions.”
“Peatlands are the world's largest carbon store on land, with great potential to store carbon long term, helping to reach Net Zero. They reduce flooding, when rewetted reduce fire risks and provide valuable habitats for both plants and animals. To tackle the climate and biodiversity crises, it is essential that collectively we have a sustainable transition to peat-free alternative growing medias. The RHS is very supportive of this project and will continue to collaborate with Defra, the horticulture industry, gardeners and others to accelerate the sustainable transition to peat-free.”
Professor Alistair Griffiths
Royal Horticultural Society Director of Science and Collections
“At Caledonian Horticulture we are delighted to be able to support the transition away from peat-based media and provide an alternative that will not only provide an environmentally friendly and cost-effective solution, but will help support a circular economy, by utilising locally generated materials in the creation of sustainable horticultural products for local markets. A cross industry collaboration on a national project such as this will make great strides in finding a solution that can be delivered at scale.”
Heads of Communications & Environmental Projects
Forth Resource Management
“I made my first TV programme about peat free compost for BBC Countryfile more than 30 years ago. Hopefully we can make real progress in the context of climate change, carbon net zero and nature recovery.”
Independent Environmentalist/ Horticulturist
“With the ban on the sale of peat in England just around the corner in 2024, the need to find alternatives is growing ever more urgent. At SUEZ we’re pleased to be working with partners in the value chain to play our part in the work to find a replacement that not only reduces carbon emissions, but that’s also convenient and cost-effective for people to use in their gardens.”
Chief External Affairs and Sustainability Officer
SUEZ recycling and recovery UK
“The National Trust has been eliminating peat from our operations for over 20 years and also works to restore areas of peatland in our care. We are fully supportive of projects like this which will help to clean up waste streams in the UK and make them suitable for replacing peat in domestic and professional horticulture. Our gardeners know the value of turning garden and kitchen waste into nutrient rich compost that is used to improve soil health – it is one of the foundational principles of sustainable gardening.”
Senior National Consultant - Plant Health & Sustainability
“We welcome Defra’s decision to ban the sale of bagged peat compost next year and are looking forward to the outcomes of further research and development into sustainable peat alternatives.”
Peat Policy Officer
The Wildlife Trusts
"The climate and biodiversity benefits of replacing peat is a no-brainer. This has been understood for decades, yet until now no credible partnership has been built to deliver change in a way that fully meets the needs of gardeners and horticulturalists. This trial should be the tipping point. By involving all the different players needed, we can create a peat-free market which benefits all."
Independent Trustee/Member - former Chair at ISO/TC 322 Sustainable Finance Committee
Other supporters of the trial include:
Mike Burks, Managing Director The Gardens Group/ Garden Centre Association
Neil Bragg Chair of the Growing Media Association
Dave Denny, Director of Research and Insights HTA