Peat: Expert discusses damage it can cause to houseplants
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After years of delays, the UK Government is finally banning the sale of peat-based compost. Officials will announce the ban this week as part of new plans to protect and restore 35,000 hectares of carbon-storing peatland.
Peat, sometimes known as turf, is a nutritious soil-like substance formed from decayed organic matter over time.
Despite horticulturists, including TV gardener Monty Don, already calling out the use of peat and warning against it, the compost is still sold in garden centres across the UK.
Peat causes damage to the environment and wildlife because it releases huge amounts of stored carbon dioxide when it is harvested, which contributes to greenhouse gas levels.
Peat mining is unsustainable as it grows back at just 1mm every year.
Horticulturists are already encouraging gardeners to buy peat-free compost, especially since there was a voluntary plan to phase out peat before 2020, which was evidently unsuccessful.
Most houseplants are also grown in peat-based composts.
However, the soon-to-be implemented ban by the Government will make peat-free alternatives more readily available in the UK.
On Tuesday this week, Environment Secretary George Eustice will announce a new consultation, to be held by the end of the year, on banning composts made of peat.
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The UK has 2.6million hectares of peatland which contain around 3billion tonnes of carbon, releasing greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and methane when it becomes damaged or dug up.
Plans are being drawn up by the Government to put a tradable “carbon price” on trees and peatland in order to offset pollution elsewhere.
As part of the announcement this week, Mr Eustice will confirm new government funding to restore 35,000 hectares of degraded peatlands in England over the next four years.
This will include £2.7million for the Great Nortb Bog, an area of moorland stretching from the English Midlands to the Scottish border.
In line with the Conservatives’ manifesto commitments, Mr Eustice will also set out plans to increase tree planting to 30,000 hectares a year by 2024.
This work will be carried out with the help of Natural England and the Forestry Commission.
On Tuesday, Eustice is expected to explain the benefits of banning the sale of peat, the Times reported.
The minister will say: “Peatlands are our biggest terrestrial carbon store and home to some of our rarest species, including bitterns, swallowtail butterfly, carnivorous sundews, hen harriers and short-eared owls.
“But only 13 per cent of our peatlands are in a near-natural state.”
Craig Bennett, Chief Executive of the Wildlife Trusts, commented on the news of the ban last night.
He said: “It is decades overdue, but we can finally put an end to the scandal of cutting up one of our most precious wildlife habitats, wrapping it in plastic and using it in our gardens.”
Mr Bennett added that there must be a “hard deadline” to ensure the ban is in place before the Cop26 UN climate summit, which will be held in Glasgow in November.
The ban on peat-based composts will see British gardeners use alternatives to grow plants in the coming months and years.
Although peat-free composts are more expensive than ones containing peat, they are already available in garden centres across the UK.
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