Leading scientists and policy-makers gathered in Inverness recently for a conference organised by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to consider the practical challenge of restoring 1 million hectares of damaged peat bogs by 2020. A number of organisations and high profile figures are backing Professor Mark Reed and the IUCN's Peatland Programme Research Manager's call to go 'Peat Free'.
Led by environmental organisation Project Maya, the 'Peat Free' campaign highlights the environmental impacts of using peat compost and the need to restore peat bogs across the UK.
The UK Government has an aim of phasing out peat by 2015 in the public sector and phasing out peat by 2020 in the amateur gardener market for bagged growing media, which represents the majority (69%) of peat use. 2030 is the date they would like only peat-free media to be used by the horticulture industry. The upsurge in waste derived compost is seen as the candidate to provide the alternative, and so work is going into raising the standards of the compost product made.
UK gardeners make a significant contribution to improving the environment for nature; growing flowers that are perfect for pollinators, along with fruit and vegetables, saving on packaging, and carbon used in transportation.
Yet, each month UK gardeners are using enough peat to fill the equivalent of 69 Olympic swimming pools, with no idea of the damage they are causing by doing so. An average 100 litre bag of peat compost takes around 100 years to develop. In this time, a bag this size will have absorbed as much carbon dioxide as you would emit by driving from London to Birmingham and back in a petrol VW Golf.
"Most amateur gardeners wouldn't notice a difference in the performance of peat versus peat-free composts, but switching to peat-free would make a significant difference to our peat bogs", said Professor Reed.
Compost Direct have produced an infographic shown below to highlight the issue, and show how you can contribute to going peat-free.
Project Maya - Peat free
Professor Mark Reed and the IUCN's Peatland Programme