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Conservationists urge Government to ban peat sales

16 Apr 2024 4 minute read
Iolo Williams. Image: Keith Morris

Wildlife campaigners including Iolo Williams are calling for the UK and Welsh Governments to support efforts to bring in a promised ban on sales of peat for gardeners.

A Private Members’ Bill to ban the sale of horticultural peat will be introduced to the House of Commons by former environment secretary Theresa Villiers, using a 10-minute rule motion.

Conservationists are urging MPs to support the bill and for the Government to use it as a “last chance” to deliver on the promise made two years ago to ban the sale of peat compost and peat-containing products in England from 2024.

Pledge

Environmental campaigners have long called for stricter laws to restore peatlands, which are the UK’s largest carbon sink.

As well as carbon capture and storage, peatlands provide habitat to some of the UK’s most threatened wildlife, and also filter water and prevent flooding downstream, but draining, burning, and harvesting for compost, means only 13% are in a near-perfect state.

The Government pledged in 2022 that the sale of peat for private gardens and allotments would be banned by the end of this Parliament in 2024, but sales remain legal, which conservationists say contributes to the destruction of peatland habitats in the UK and across Europe.

A public consultation, which received 5,000 responses, found 95% of people supported the ban.

Actress Alison Steadman, an ambassador for The Wildlife Trusts, said: “The Government is running out of time to fulfil its promise to ban the sale of peat to gardeners by the end of this parliament.

“Peat belongs in bogs not bags, and it’s high time that commitments to ensure a ban are honoured.

“What’s left of precious peatlands needs protecting and restoring, not despoiling.”

“It has to stop”

TV presenter Iolo Williams, who is vice president of the Wildlife Trusts, said the WelshGovernment, alongside the UK Government, promised a ban on the sale of peat compost by the end of this year – but there was no sign it would happen.

“Peatlands have the power to help lock up carbon, alleviate flooding and help wildlife recover – so why on Earth are we still allowing them to be dug up? It has to stop,” he said.

Peatland restoration work. Photo NRW

And actor and presenter Cel Spellman, also an ambassador for the Wildlife Trusts, said: “It’s easy to create nutrient-rich soils and compost without ever needing peat.

“Ending the sale of peat products would be a huge step forward and a much needed one too – I hope the UK Government picks up its heels on this issue that has simply dragged on for far too long, especially after already going back on so many other promises and commitments.”

Ailis Watt, public affairs officer of The Wildlife Trusts, said: “Peatlands are central to our ability to address the interlinked nature and climate crises.

“When in a healthy state, peatlands lock up and store carbon for millennia.

“However, decades of human interventions have transformed peatlands into carbon sources; emissions from degraded peatlands now account for 4% of the UK’s total annual greenhouse gas emissions.”

“Complete retail ban”

The Royal Horticultural Society also backed the Bill, with Professor Alistair Griffiths of the gardening charity saying many gardeners had already adopted peat-free practices.

“But 95% of respondents to the UK Government’s peat consultation want to see Government legislate for a complete retail ban on peat – the Government must listen to voters and support the Horticultural Peat Private Members Bill today,” he urged.

An Environment Department (Defra) spokesperson said: “We are committed to ending the use of horticultural peat. We agree there is no need to use peat in gardens and there are now many peat-free alternatives on the market.

“Since we set out our proposals to ban the sale of peat in 2022 we have seen a 59% reduction in peat use across the country, and have worked extensively with industry to move towards a full transition to peat-free working.”

The Government will set out its position on the Bill when it reaches a second reading, officials said.


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Frank
Frank
1 month ago

I’ve tried this peat-free compost and quite honestly I think it’s not as good. Water just runs straight through it.

Jeff
Jeff
1 month ago

I use peat free all the time now, have done for a good few years, it works (though some brands are terrible, and from the same firms that sell peat). The best place for peat is in the ground where it is found, not dug up then put back.

Of course the lobby groups for tearing up the countryside will be out in force trying to stop the ban.

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